When my youngest child would get frustrated trying to assemble a Lego creation, I’d say “You can do hard things.” When my children were learning to ride a bike and were scared of falling, I’d remind them “You can do hard things.”
These days when they need to apologize to their sister, have a hard conversation with a friend, or figure out their math homework, I look into their eyes and say as many times as they need to hear it, “You can do hard things.”
You can do hard things is a phrase intended to remind my children what they are capable of, to challenge them to try something new, and to support them in reaching their goals. When done well, you can do hard things combines both the challenge and support needed to create the optimal environment for growth.
Too much support without enough challenge in the form of you don’t have to do hard things will cause our children to stagnate in their comfort zones, always being connected and accepted by us, but lacking opportunities for growth. If we constantly flatter them with generalizations like “You’re awesome” without any specific details on why they are awesome, they can become prideful and resistant to character change. If we protect them from consequences or give them too few responsibilities, they may believe that they are not strong enough to handle life and never attempt hard things. Goldilocks would say that this type of parenting would be too soft.
On the other hand, too much challenge in the form of you must do hard things can be harsh and frustrating for a child. If our standards for acceptable behavior, grades, or sports skills are too high, our children may stop trying new things unless they are guaranteed success. If we demand constant results and don’t make room for failure, our children may come to believe that their worth is tied to their performance, and they won’t be able to find rest for their bodies or their souls. Goldilocks would say that this type of parenting would be too hard and she would be right.
In order to find that “just right” spot in our parenting, we need to offer high support with lots of empowerment AND high challenge with lots of encouragement.
So the next time your child gets frustrated or scared by a new task:
- Remind them, You Can Do Hard Things
- Sit next to them and cheer them on while they do the hard thing
- Provide help, if needed but don’t bail them out by doing the hard thing for them
- If they fail, ask them what they learned by attempting the hard thing
- Applaud them for the courage to try or do the hard thing
- Ask them what other hard things they want to attempt and how you can support them
- Talk about all the hard things that Noah, Abraham, Gideon, Joshua, Moses, etc. were able to accomplish with the help of God, and how He wants to help your child do hard things today.
Therefore encourage one another
and build one another up,
just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
How have you encouraged your children in the hard things?
By Dale Skram
Mom of four
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
real.life.speaker, real.faith.writer, and real.life.coach