Q: As a parent, I have a hard time watching my school-age children go through challenges; my natural inclination is to step in and fix things for them when I can. Isn't that what parenting is about?
Jim: The goal of parenting is to raise our children to be mature, responsible adults who can function on their own. Sometimes that involves letting them struggle through a crisis and sort it out on their own.
Say your son waited until the last minute to write his English paper, and it's halfway done when the computer unexpectedly shuts off and all his work disappears. What would you do? Help rewrite the paper to ensure he turns it in on time and gets a good grade? Or let him redo the whole thing himself and accept whatever grade he gets?
A lot of parents would jump in and rescue their child right away. They'd do more than offer a helping hand. They'd do the problem-solving for their son, or even call his teacher to handle the fallout if he didn't get his paper done on time.
But your child might learn more if you allow him to work the problem through himself. He may not get the grade he hoped for on his paper, but he'll probably learn an even more valuable lesson: how to handle a crisis when one comes up (not to mention advance planning). The answer isn't to waste hours complaining or to expect someone else to resolve the situation. He needs to learn to face a problem head-on and to do what needs to be done to correct it.
We parents can often be too quick to rescue our children from pain. But maturity comes through overcoming challenges. What matters is the child's resiliency and ability to deal with life's problems.
Q: I'm getting married in a few months. My fiance and I are excited, but kind of intimidated; sometimes the whole marriage thing seems a little overwhelming. Do you have any advice?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage and Family Formation: Marriage is somewhat like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. The first step in building a puzzle is to dump the pieces out of the box and sift through the pile. You want to look for matching colors and border pieces. The second step is to put the border together. That gives you some sense of the space you're working with. The last step is the most important of all: look at the picture on the front of the box.
The picture is your goal. The more pieces you get in the right place, the more the puzzle will look how it should. Without the picture for reference, you're creating lots of extra headaches for yourself. The colors blend together and none of the pieces will seem connected. The whole thing will be one big, frustrating mystery.
The first few years of marriage can be a frustrating mystery, too. You barely know each other. It's like the pieces to your marriage puzzle have been dumped onto the table, and your differences are just starting to emerge. It all has to be navigated for you to create a happy and successful marriage. That's a daunting task when the pieces don't fit and the colors all blend together.
The solution? Keep looking at the reference picture. Get a vision for your marriage and pursue it together. Read a marriage book -- or several. Definitely get premarital counseling (and maybe even post-wedding counseling). Healthy marriages are easier to piece together when couples have a common vision and goal to pursue.
We have tons of resources to help your marriage thrive at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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