We once had a female Mallard duck and her six ducklings hanging out in our pool and fish pond for about 24 hours. We don’t know where they came from or where they went, but during their brief stay, I had a review lesson in parenting.
We first saw them in our pool. It appeared that the babies were unable to get out. My husband raised the level of the water and we placed an upside -down pan on the top step to give them a boost. Some of the babies did figure out how to use the pan, but after observing them for awhile, I removed it.
The mother would hop out of the pool and then call to her ducklings. They would flap their little wings and keep trying until they made it up onto the ledge. Once they were all out of the pool, the mother would give them a brief rest, then jump back into the pool with them following, and start all over. After doing this for awhile, she gave them a rest, snuggled underneath her. Later, she explored the pond and bushes with them.
I realized she was building their stamina and, while our intentions were good, we weren’t truly being helpful by making things easier for the ducklings. I remembered an article I’d read years ago about someone who caused a baby chick to become crippled by breaking the shell the rest of the way as it was pecking its way out. Apparently, the pecking process of breaking through the egg is necessary to the chicks development, even though it’s hard work.
It takes much prayerful discernment to determine what our children are (or aren’t) capable of, and just how much to help them. We don’t want them to get frustrated to the point of discouragement, but neither do we want them to become lazy and unmotivated. We have to know when to let them fail or reap the consequences of their decisions. We also need to recognize when they truly need our assistance. There’s a big difference, for example, between showing a child how to do his or her schoolwork and doing it for them. Even with grown children, we need to prayerfully evaluate when they truly need our help and when we might be unintentionally crippling them. The duck was a good reminder for me.