Is it more important that your child does what is right today or that he or she grows into the kind of adult who chooses what is right?
This is a core dilemma for many parents.
We want to see our children do the right thing but we often set up family systems that enforce right action at the expense of growth.
I like to think about a child’s moral development like teaching a child to walk.
Parental intuitions around teaching our kids to walk are almost perfect.
We just seem to know when to hold their little hands and when to let them take steps on their own.
But when teaching our kids to make moral choices our intuitions often fail us.
Some parents leave their kids without any help taking their first steps and others won’t let their kids take any steps on their own.
In the garden God put our first parents in a morally dangerous situation and then left.
But, he came back every evening to walk with them in the cool of the day.
This is the difficult balance we’re trying to find: to allow our kids to make lots of independent choices and to be there to lovingly debrief those decisions.
Instead of having a goal that your kids be good (which is something you can’t control) why not make your target the quality and the timing of the debrief?
I care more that my child feels comfortable to fully open up to me soon after facing a difficult moral choice than even what choice they made. Their honesty with me and with themselves is a strong signal that they are growing into the kind of person who will eventually choose what is right.
Kids are going to stumble. That’s the only way to learn how to walk.
And our kids want to know, is your goal that they learn to walk or that they never fall?
One makes you a valued partner in their growth and the other makes you an obstacle.
Which will you choose?
This entry is a part of Jeremy’s Journal, a newsletter Jeremy sends out every Wednesday morning to encourage you on your parenting journey. You can sign up to get them every Wednesday here.