Nobody wants to see their kid make a mistake. That’s why we spend so much time teaching them right and wrong, why we try to be a good example, why we try to catch and stop them when we see them going down the wrong path.
Since the beginning of time fathers have been doing this…and since the beginning of time have had, at best, only minimal success. In the novel Siddhartha, the title character tries desperately to convince his son of the importance of the simple way of life, having learned the wisdom of it through painful experience. Like you, like all fathers, he watches as his son ignores his warnings, despairing as his son goes the wrong direction. As he sees his son falling into bad habits, Siddhartha confides his frustration to his friend, Vasudeva, who replies, “Do you really believe you have committed your follies so that your son may be spared them?”
It would be wonderful if our kids didn’t have to learn through trial and error, if they could simply accept our advice and start where we left off, rather than touch the proverbial hot stove for themselves. But we should be wise enough as human beings by now to know that is simply not how life works. Much of what we learn has to be learned on our own. Some mistakes have to be made to be fully understood. Don’t your own experiences teach you that, anyway? How many of your parents’ warnings did you really listen to?
You can’t prevent your kids from making mistakes. Nor, honestly, should you really want to. You have to let them learn on their own. And you have to give them the space to do it. Knowing that you’ve instilled the character, the awareness, and the willingness to ask for help that they will need in order to bounce back from the mistakes they will inevitably make.