A few weeks ago, a young friend of mine was talking about his theory of raising children. He told me that he wants his kids to learn from their own experience, so he tries not to share too many of his opinions, thoughts or experiences with them so that they can figure it out on their own.
As he was talking about his theory, I thought about the quote by John Wilmot who once said “I used to have six theories about raising children. Now I have six children and no theories.”
While I understood my friend’s intent about raising self-reliant children, I had to question his wisdom.
First I told him that I actually think it is nearly impossible for a parent not to involve themselves in the lives of their kids by sharing their opinions and experiences.
Next, I told him that I believed that his kids, even though they might complain, actually want and need to know what he thought and believed. They need to learn from his experience, even though they might try something completely different.
Then I shared with him that I believe that God has designed us as parents to guide our kids using our own experience so that they may gain wisdom.
“…do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons” Deuteronomy 4:9.
What this young father didn’t quite understand was that nobody gains wisdom solely on their own experience.
When I was young, I didn’t need to experience falling out of a third story window to know that you could break your arm. My brother had already done that. I didn’t need to put my tongue on an electric fence to know that you’d get a good shock! My other brother did that for me. I learned from a friend that you can burn a garage down if you build a bonfire right next to it!
Learning from other people’s experience can be very beneficial.
So when my son got his learner’s permit to drive, I had just one rule. He couldn’t say, “I know Dad!” When we first started out, he would say that with this tone of indignation that indicated that he already knew what he was doing and that he didn’t need my instruction.
The truth was, I knew a lot more than he did about driving. By the time he was 15 years old, I had logged over 620,000 miles. To put that into perspective, that is the equivalent of driving around the world over 25 times! That’s a lot of valuable experience.
I’ve had experiences that he never has. So when I tell him to anticipate a bicyclist scooting out from behind that tall bush on the corner, it is because one time a few years back, I came close to hitting someone who failed to stop at that intersection. I’ve learned from experience how to spot an inattentive driver who doesn’t see me when they change lanes.
Kids need your experience. All of your experiences, both good and bad are necessary. These experiences can be a gift from God. They are valuable teachers for you and your kids.
No doubt, there are some lessons they will have to learn on their own. But never underestimate the power of your own experience on your children.
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance.
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn, Father of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries
Registration opens October 1!
Presented by 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting