Step In or Step Aside?

It’s a simple truth. When our kids suffer, we suffer. When our kids get left out, we feel sad for them.  When our kids struggle in school, we yearn to help them. Bottom Line, in our society we want our kids to succeed.


We live in a competitive world. We know it, and I can assure you, your kids know it. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 the Bible says, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!  All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step.”


This is a great verse. As parents, we could easily read this and direct them to the “So run to win!” part. That’s not necessarily bad, but humor me for a moment and let’s focus on “but only one person gets the prize.” On earth, this is true. How do you react when your kid is not the best at something, does not always make the best choices, and sits on the bench more than they play? How do you react when they don’t come in first? Do you yell at the coach for not letting them play? Do you yell at them? Do you call the teacher immediately when your child tells you they were unfairly treated? Have you ever considered pausing before reacting?


In our desire to want them to succeed, to be happy and to live a fulfilling life I think that we (me included) sometimes put undue pressure on our kids. We often step in when we should step aside and let God do the work He is trying to do in our children. At times we honestly get in the Potters way.


The verse is clear that in life only one person wins the race. That prize will fade away. Our race as Christians is of a different kind and our prize is eternal. Somebody has to lose in a race. Somebody has to come in last. It may be your child. God could be redirecting them to a different path by allowing them to fail or He may be growing them in humility. You may not know for sure, but you have to trust that God has a full purpose and plan for your child (Jeremiah 9:11).


Below are a few common mistakes that I have made and that I have seen. Now that I have a grown daughter I am hoping that my “hindsight is 20/20 vision” wisdom can help you!


  1. Whose Race is it Anyway: Are you pushing your kid to be all-star soccer player because you were an all-star soccer player, or maybe you wanted to be? Don’t try to live your own pursuits through your child.


  • Does performance drive your parenting? On com, Ted Cunningham says:


I am what you might call a “trophy parent.” Daily, I catch myself showing off my kids to the world. From helping too much with homework in the pursuit of perfect grades to bragging about them on Facebook, I want my family and friends to see only the best in my children. My kids are perfectly placed on a shelf for the world to see.


Looking around, it seems I’m not alone in this regard. Performance-driven parenting is an easy trap to fall into. Most every Christian parent I know wants well-behaved, successful and responsible kids who love Jesus. We encourage, nurture and direct them to that end. But we aren’t careful, those healthy motives can get twisted, and our kids can spend their childhood fulfilling their parents’ dreams and needs, losing out on discovering who God created them to be and what He is preparing them to do.


  1. Don’t Compare


    • Comparison only leads to despair. It has become so common that we often forget just how truly damaging it is to a child’s self-esteem. Comparing your child to all the other kids on the block will only discourage you and them.


  • Comparison is often used by a parent to motivate a child or to encourage them to push themselves harder. “Sarah is so good. She comes right home and studies and gets all of her homework done right away. I heard she just made it on the honor roll. You could do the same if you would just apply yourself.” It is important that our children don’t forget who they are (Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 12:4). Each of us are unique, different and created for our own purpose. It is okay to push them to do their best but don’t compare them to others. Direct them to look for ways within themselves to improve.


  1. Step In or Step Aside


    • It is easy to want to “rescue” our children from an uncomfortable situation. Kids are kids and they will think things are unfair. If they think they are being treated unfair by a teacher, or they feel they are being left out by a group of friends, try this approach. First, listen to their concern. Don’t immediately try to step in and help your child resolve or “fix” the issue. Now here is the important part. Ask questions. First of all, have they tried to talk to their teacher themselves? Have they tried to sit down with that friend? Have they talked to their coach? Do they even like baseball or whatever sport they are in? Ask your child: What do you think God is trying to teach you through this? Often, this allows both you and them time to cool down and to take a different approach than just immediately reacting.


  • When it is time to step in with a teacher or coach, pray first. Go in open minded. Don’t get defensive, and understand that Kids make mistakes and those mistakes are not always a direct reflection on your parenting. If you find out your child was in the wrong, make them own up to it and take responsibility. If you don’t, you will end up with a child who will try to hide their mistakes or lie about them. I’ve had several kids tell me that they are not allowed to fail. They feel pressure from their parents to succeed and they tell me they are afraid to tell their parents when they get a bad grade, have trouble at practice, etc. out of fear of disappointment.


  1. Failing can Lead to Faith


    • How will our children ever learn how much God can lift them up if we never let them fall? If we are constantly there to rescue them they never to get to fully experience how God is working in their lives. When they face a struggle encourage them to pray and to ask God for wisdom on how to handle the situation. How many times have you had a problem that once it was resolved you knew it had to be God? It is in our weakness His strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).


  • Speaking of later, remind them that often our struggles lead to blessings later. They simply need to do their best, stay focused on God, talk to Him about their worries and see how God is going to work it out. He will do it in His time, not ours. That’s the hard part.