One day a female duck and her six ducklings visited our pool. As I watched them, it appeared that the babies were unable to get out of the pool. 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 a while, 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 a while, she gave them a rest, snuggled underneath her.
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 shell is necessary to the chick’s development, even though it’s hard work.
I realized how important it is to get to know our children well in order to recognize when they truly need our help and when they just need our encouragement to persevere.
I don’t want to frustrate them by making unrealistic demands, but neither do I want to hinder their growth by helping them too much.
Like the mother duck, we need to know what our children are capable of, and then encourage them to persevere in developing their abilities.
Questions for meditation and discussion: (1a) Do you struggle in discerning how much to help your child? (b) How do you figure it out? (2a) How well do you feel you know each of your children? (b) What are the challenges you face with that?
Application homework: Think of ways you might get to know your children better. Write them down. Then select one and start doing it. Record how it is going.