Are We Tending To Our Kids’ Roots?

An old man hired a young man to come and help him build an orchard on a mountain. They divided the land into halves, each responsible for growing and caring for the tree’s on their half of the mountain. 

The young man immediately went to work diligently removing all rocks and debris from the soil, and carefully planting each tree. He dug irrigation ditches and kept all his trees well watered, and fertilized them regularly. He pruned them, and did everything in his power to make sure the tree’s had everything they needed to grow tall and be fruitful. The old man, on his side of the mountain, simply scattered his seeds without doing anything to the soil first. He dug no irrigation ditches, and did not water the plants beyond what the rain gave them. Besides keeping fires and weeds away, he left his trees alone. 
A year went by, and the young man’s trees were beautiful, tall, and bearing delicious fruit. The old man’s trees were small, scrawny, and almost barren. The young man asked the elder, ‘Why don’t you care for your trees as I do? See how tall and beautiful they are because of my constant care? Do you not care if they survive?’ The old man simply replied, ‘Of course I do. We’ll wait and see.’ Several months went by and neither changed their routines or the way they cared for their trees. Then, one evening, the worst storm that had ever hit their small village ravaged the mountain with fierce wind, thunder, and flooding. At dawn, when the storm has finally ceased, both men went out to assess the damage to their orchard. 
The young man’s trees were all dead. Ripped from the ground and tossed aside, there was nothing left on his side of the mountain besides debris. The soil had all been washed away, and it was going to take years to get his orchard back to where it had been. The old man’s tree had some leaves missing, and even a few branches torn off, but still stood strong – every single one. The soil had not washed away. The young man was angry and confused. ‘Why are your trees still standing? I did everything for mine! I gave them everything they ever needed and more to grow tall and bear fruit!’ The old man replied, ‘What you saw in your trees was only what was above the ground. They were tall and beautiful on the surface, but at their roots they were weak and shallow. My trees had to learn to grow among rocks – harder for roots to penetrate, but also harder for wind to and rain to wash away. My trees did not receive water at their base as yours did – they had to dig deep to find water where they could. True strength doesn’t come from protection or an easy life – but from challenge and adversity.’
Growing Deep Roots for Your Kid
After working closely with thousands of kids and their families for the past 18 years, the story shared with me by a co-worker seems more poignant and applicable for our kids than ever before.  Far too many times parents focus on the immediate fruit of their kids and disregard their long term growth and roots.  While the intention is well-placed, many times we fall short of allowing for the kind of growth and maturation that is essential for our kids.  What do I mean by this and what do I believe we need to do for our kids to help them grow strong deep roots that are capable of weathering the storms without us?
  • Take a Chance
    When we as parents over protect and over parent our children, we limit the opportunity for our kids to take chances and risk.  The act taking risks and chances gives them the opportunity to gain independence, create memorable moments and leads to one of the most valuable lessons of all….failure.
  • Failure is Good
    Failure is one of the most powerful opportunities for personal growth.  And by the way, it is inevitable. When we fail we open the door for success after that failure.  And rest-assured, realizing you can succeed at something after you have failed places roots deep in a ground that is required for healthy adulthood.
  • Enabling: A Disease
    The act of enabling our children is like stealing their natural potential right out from underneath their feet.  Enabling our kids prevents them from taking responsibility for their environment and themselves.  The act of enabling our kids stems from our own fears and in the end is a selfish parenting act that robs them of real growth, responsibility and maturation.
  • Walk the Walk
    You can talk Shakespeare till you are blue in the face.  If you walk Mark Twain, your Mark Twain to your kid.  My point here is, all the things we need to do to teach our kid to grow deep roots needs to first be sowed by our actions and then by our words.  As a parent, our example is the most powerful mentor for our children.  Practice what you preach.

Great leaders are not born, they simply had great mentors.  If our goal is to raise our children to be strong and happy people who can respond to adversity and weather any storm, then we must give them the tools to do so.  We must love them with all our heart but that love must not be without intelligence and purpose.  For when we teach our children to grow roots deep into the ground, we give them the foundation to be the best they can be and in return, they will foster a similar growth for their own children.

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