Releasing control is one of the greatest challenges I have had as a parent and homeschooling mom. Sometimes, identifying when to help and when to let our children struggle through something can be tough. Yet, it is essential to their growth and development–and our sanity.
When my daughter was in middle school, I was fortunate to find myself in the way of some sage wisdom on the benefits of letting go and “trusting the life process”.
A Relationship-Shifting Experience
We were attending a Suzuki violin master class that included a workshop for parents led by a professional musician/music teacher. Being a violinist myself, I really didn’t see much need to attend. I wasn’t particularly interested in sitting through an hour of listening to information designed to meet the needs of non-musician parents. In the end, I decided that if I learned one thing it would be worth the time spent. It turned out to be a life-altering decision.
Much of the content was as I expected. Then, a frustrated parent asked a question regarding how to get a child to practice without it becoming a relationship-testing battle. My ears perked up. I knew well the “practice wars”. As the speaker leaned back in her chair, she smiled and said, “When the older students get to a certain point, you have to let it go.”
Letting Go of Things That Matter
Let it go, I thought. My mind immediately contemplated the precious loss of time that such a decision might produce. I was also acutely aware that my perpetual nagging was exhausting, annoying to my daughter and yielding no fruit. It was also causing Nia to begin to dislike playing the violin, and to resent me for the intrusion—no matter how well-intended. So, I listened.
The instructor shared the story of her own daughter who, it seemed, matched mine in terms of resistance. As she defined her “letting go” story, I listened intently. Her strategy was to simply NOT remind, cajole or press her daughter to practice. The result? It was exactly what I imagined would happen if I adopted the same plan. Her daughter did nothing.
When her daughter’s private music teacher would address the daughter’s lack of reasonable progress, the mom would simply ask her daughter about what had happened in the lesson. Then, she’d ask. “How’s that working out for you?” Her daughter would reply, “Not good”. Then, she’d ask her what she thought she might do to turn things around. This resulted in a conversation that didn’t necessarily produce any visible changes, but left no battle scars either.
Eventually, the plan worked. Although, the presenter described it as a “year of loss” before her daughter was able to figure it out for herself.
“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” -Anne Frank
A Losing Proposition
That day, I made a decision to let go of the practice battle. I think my precocious daughter was surprised. I imagine it felt like a dream come true. No more fussing. No more practice “drive-bys” where I informed her of her errors. Freedom to do it– or not do it–her way.
Nia’s private teacher was mortified. He noticed the change pretty quickly, so I told him what I was doing. He told me that it was a bad idea. After all, she possessed a natural gift that, I suppose, he felt was being wasted by my lack of parental intervention.
Truthfully, Nia knew what was required. She was simply refusing to do it consistently or conscientiously. Thankfully, I ignored her teacher’s professional opinion.
Let Go to Grow
Eventually, our results matched the music teacher’s experience. After a year of more lows than highs, Nia decided to choose something different for herself. She began to practice on her own, and went on to become the Concert Master of two orchestras and, at 11 years old, was invited to become a member of our local University/Community Orchestra. Since then, she’s won numerous competitions, and is an accomplished musician and is now has her own growing teaching studio.
By releasing control, I had created the space for her to assume responsibility for her music. And, she did. The struggle was sometimes difficult to witness without interfering. However, the results were worth it. Nia found her own way in her own time. The experience grew us both.
Letting go can be a challenge. However, struggle is important for our growth. Overcoming obstacles results in character building, self-sufficiency and develops real self-esteem. Recently, I was reminded of this concept through the story below. It’s a wonderful illustration of the idea that not all “helping” is “helpful”–a great lesson for all who choose to be mentally strong parents.
The Story of the Butterfly
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.
So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Life’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Remember nature needs no help, just no interference. There are processes of life, things we all go through. The struggles are a part of our journey and are preparing us for what awaits. They are preparing us to fly.
Do you have a butterfly story of your own to share? Share it with us below or on social media @realtalkdn.
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