Leading From Behind with Kids (When it’s Easier to Do it Myself)

**Disclaimer- while I was writing this post, my youngest son was super-gluing his hands together downstairs.

We’ve all been there. Watching our child struggle through something, whether it’s cutting up food or doing their homework. We start getting antsy and reach towards them, wanting to just help them so it can get done. We know how to do it, better and faster. With the short amount of time we have to do anything, it seems a waste to let them struggle and use our precious time.

This is something I have been convicted about, as my children start getting older. Right now, they are 9, 7, and 5 and some days I wonder why they can’t seem to do anything by themselves.

I haven’t taught them. 

When is the last time I instinctively knew how to do something? I have been taught many things for which I am grateful,  and I have had feelings of regret over things I wasn’t taught. TCK’s (third culture kids) are sometimes at a great disadvantage because we grow up in cultures where there is more help around the house, and we aren’t exposed to many things from our passport country, like using mailboxes and writing checks and learning to drive at the age of 16. (All my experiences- I’m aware that I’m getting OLD and these things probably won’t even be relevant to my kids, except for driving and that’s just scary.) College can be a frustrating time- I experienced it. Even now, as a wife and mother, I feel like there are so many things I don’t know and wish I had learned earlier.

So it’s my job (and my husband’s of course), to teach them to be independent, to learn new skills, to survive and thrive. With the looming reality of sending our kids to boarding school for their high school years, time feels like it’s ticking away and way too fast.

But I have a confession. I don’t like the cleanup after my kids have created inventions.  I don’t love how the bathroom looks after they take their showers all by themselves.  I don’t like the mess when my kids try to cook. I don’t always even like how their food tastes. But it is so SO worth it. (And yes, we are also working on teaching them how to clean up after themselves- but any parent knows it takes a IMG_2923long time for the house to actually get clean.)

Learning is a process. It’s messy at first. But the pride that my children feel about being able to do things for themselves cannot be traded for anything. Today, I gave my 5-year old a new chore, and as he lugged the dog beds from the wash to the dryer, he declared that this chore was AWESOME. The kids also made their own breakfast, washed and fed the dogs, cleared out our drain, and then went to work on making more rubber band guns with their pocket knives. IMG_2934IMG_2931

I’ve mentioned before that I tell my boys they are in “Man Training.” It’s for real. They need to be reminded, as well as me, that their purpose on this earth is not just for play and happiness. I would be robbing them of the intrinsic pride and joy in their newfound skills, and the ability to learn and create things. I would be robbing them of the sense of responsibility that good, earthly citizens should have. I would be robbing them of the chance to be great and successful as adults, which is coming all too soon.


I gotta put up with the messy. I gotta be patient. I gotta DEAL with the process.

And one day, when they leave home and I can be at peace knowing that they can take care of themselves, I will reap the rewards.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6


Be looking for Part 2- Leading from Behind in Ministry

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