My sons are now becoming young men, and along with it comes the memories of a simpler time, when they were boys. Today I want to share with you a blog post that ran back in 2007. The main idea of this piece – to allow your children to make mistakes as they grow up – remains true today. I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane with me… and that you heed the lesson I learned years ago while hanging out with my boys at a local Lowe’s store. –J.D.
For several months a friend has been telling me about how he takes his kids to Home Depot on the first Saturday of every month for a kids woodworking workshop. Together they’ve built a bird feeder, a race car, a Crayon holder, a biplane, and a keepsake box among other cool crafts over the years. Turns out that Lowe’s has a similar project time on the second Saturday morning as well. Best of all these sessions are free.
Never one to miss a bargain, last Saturday I took the boys to Lowe’s for their first nail pounding experience. What a blast! Upon arrival, participants were handed a project kit, a hammer, safety goggles, and an “official” Lowe’s blue apron.
This week we were to build a squirrel feeder. Spreading the wood parts and finishing nails on the floor, we got down to business. We scanned the instructions and started hammering away.
While Trent and Troy worked, I couldn’t help but notice how other dads and moms interacted with their kids. Some patiently coached their kids through the simple construction process, perhaps starting the nail in the wood to make it easier for their junior carpenter to drive home.
Others, however, insisted on doing most, if not all, of the work. Every nail had to be perfectly straight. The sides had to be square. The squirrel emblem had to be precisely centered on the roof. Each detail was micromanaged by a parent who must of thought they were building a replica of the White House. Meanwhile, their kids – sporting bright blue aprons and goggles – sat and watched, bored.
I thought, “What’s the point of that? I thought this was a kids’ workshop.” Evidently, a number of parents wanted the final product to be flawless . . . heaven forbid their kids made a mistake or bent a nail!
Why do we, as parents, get hung up on perfection? Why are we so afraid of our kids making mistakes?
Now, I can appreciate the desire to get things right. What squirrel wants a crooked squirrel feeder, right? At the same time, it seems to me that when I give my kids the freedom to make mistakes, they take ownership and gain confidence. On a deeper level, they also know that mom or dad loves them regardless of their performance. That’s no small lesson. Maybe it’s time we let our kids bend a few nails . . . color outside of the lines . . . and get as much paint on them as on their artwork.
After we were finished, Trent and Troy marched through the store proudly carrying their finished project, bent nails and all. Once outside, we shared a hotdog and a drink, basking in the simple pleasure of being together. Isn’t that the larger picture anyway?