The OTHER Most Important Thing You Can Give Your Child

My first-born will be 21 tomorrow, and my second is only a few years behind her brother. And in a way that I know will shock no one, I am wondering how in the world we’ve made it to this point.


I am not one of those parents who cried on the first day of kindergarten, or one who mourns her kids’ approaching adulthood. Instead, I’ve loved and looked forward to each new stage of my children’s growth.

I couldn’t wait for them to discover all there was to learn in school. I couldn’t wait for them to learn to read, join the band, learn to drive. Of course there have been challenges all along the way, but I have loved every stage of their development, from toddlers to teens.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t exactly loved every single moment, but we haven’t killed each other yet. :)

What I’ve loved is watching their growing confidence as they take on new challenges, stumble through new experiences, learn new skills. And work to find their own internal strengths.

As I watch them begin the transition to young adulthood, I can’t help but compare where they are to other kids their age, and – of course – to where I was at that point in my own life. And like any parent, I wonder and worry about whether we’ve equipped them with the skills they’ll need to make it on their own.

Like any parent, I pray. A lot. :)

I’ve worked with thousands of teens over the years, professionally and as a volunteer. Because of that, I sometimes feel like I have a bigger window into what their world is like, including their hopes – and their fears. I also talk with other adults about their own observations of today’s young people. And I think there’s a pattern we’re all beginning to see.

At the risk of sounding like one of my elders: kids today aren’t like they used to be.

Maybe I’m imagining it, but it seems to me that today’s kids need more pushing to grow up. I was surprised the first time I had a teen in my office who had no interest in learning to drive. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Today, I almost expect that. I see it everywhere.

I used to be surprised when kids I knew who were perfectly capable of handling university work, would take a vocational route instead – or skip college altogether. Not any more.

So why is that? What’s happened across our broader culture that’s creating little birds who’d just as soon stay in the nest as long as they can?

I don’t know for sure, but I think a lot of it comes down to confidence.

They don’t have it. Not like we did.

Of course, maybe we just didn’t feel like we had any choice. :)

But think about this. Remember when your toddler would stand up, wobbly, holding on to your knees? She’d waddle across the den, pick up some little something on a table and bring it back to your lap. He’d stumble over to the sliding glass door, plop both hands on the glass to look out, then turn around to grin up at you.

They were exploring their world, which at that time just meant getting across the room. Pretty exciting stuff.

But they made it across the room on unsteady legs because, first of all, they knew you were there if they really needed you….

And secondly, because they weren’t afraid of falling down.

It would never occur to them to worry about that. Fall down? No problem. They’ll just find a table corner somewhere to grab hold of and pull themselves back up again.

They might sit there and cry for a second. But if you just leave them alone, they’ll soon roll over onto their tummy, prop their little hands on the carpet, push their bottom up into the air and stand back up again. Ta-daa!

Somehow, as they get older, I think a lot of them are losing that self-determination. Venturing out into the world is not so appealing, because they might make a mistake, stumble, fall. It’s a little scary out there, and what if they don’t know what to do?

Confidence doesn’t grow from a life of ease.

Confidence grows from facing something that’s difficult and getting through it anyway.

“Difficult” could be large or small. It may be figuring out how to make those little legs carry you from your mom’s side to that shiny object across the room. It may be figuring out how to handle a job interview at McDonald’s.

So do your kids a favor.

Give them opportunities to build up their confidence. Let them struggle a bit before you step in for the rescue. Let them find their internal strength. It’s in there. Give them a huge hug when they make it through whatever is before them, and tell them you knew all along they could do it.

And do this for yourself, too. If you need a little help finding your own internal strength, there may be a way I can help. Just give me a call or drop me a note.

But whatever it is that’s facing you right now, that you wonder how you’re going to find your way through, you will figure it out. I know this. Because I’ve known all along that you could do it, too.

Cheers to you, brave one.

And Happy Birthday, Caleb.

Love you, sweet boy.







Want to get in the loop to know about our next Secret Adventure?

Tell me so in your comment below and I’ll be sure you get an invitation!

Here’s the fall calendar, and here’s a post about the new level designations, to help you out.



Photo Credits: Wendy Pitts Reeves




50% Complete