You Have to Let Them Struggle

No father wants to see their kids suffer. It’s almost more painful for you than it is for them to watch them trip over their words, to scratch their heads in front of their homework, or to bumble their way through the early years of their career. Biologically this makes sense—you’re designed to want to save them, to empathize on almost a self-destructive level. But evolutionarily it also doesn’t make sense. If they never struggle, they can’t grow, they can’t learn, they can’t get better. 

Thomas Edison, a genius and a business success if there ever was one, himself had trouble with this exact issue. He was so brilliant, so headstrong, so clear about what he wanted that he could not quite give his sons room to develop and learn. He couldn’t quite figure out the line between boss and father.

His wife wrote him a great letter once that stands as advice to all fathers, especially important for successful ones. “You’ve made a success of your life,” she wrote, “built up tremendous industries successfully so you have nothing more to prove to the world that you are capable—All know it—Can’t you be happy in just letting the boys struggle along, with you to guide them… Forget a little bit that you are Charle’s manager and be a father—a big father!”

Remember, your job is to guide your kids, not to solve all their problems. Your job is to make learning possible for them, not to spoon-feed them their education. It might seem crazy—it might even physically pain you—but you have to let them be stupid and stumble around. You definitely don’t get to spare them every trouble you went through, that’s just not how this works. 

Of course, it’s wonderful that you care, that you’d die for them if necessary. But you have to forget a little bit—as Edison had to do—just how much you feel for them so that they can learn. And in this way, you’ll save them so much more suffering in the future.

P.S. This was originally sent on May 25, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”