Timmy was learning to ride a bike without training wheels. This was his first attempt to ride without their aid. He had learned to start and stop while the wheels kept him from tipping over; but the day had arrived when his sense of balance had to get in gear.
So his dad got out the tools, and Timmy helped him take off the training wheels. Excitement was building. Then they pushed the bike to the driveway and dad was coaching Timmy for his first “solo” ride.
Timmy’s mom came out to watch. Timmy had asked her to see him ride on his very own. She was not convinced that he was ready. “Are you sure you can do this?” she asked him. Then she turned to dad, “He won’t get hurt, will he?”
But the objections had been overruled and the time had come.
Timmy was fearful and was having trouble getting the bike going. Dad agreed to help him balance and give a little push; and suddenly, Timmy was riding–five, ten, twenty feet. His dad was ecstatic, yelling, “Great job! You’re doing it.” At the same time, mom was screeching, “Be careful! Don’t fall.”
Just as suddenly as the ride had begun, he lost control and over he fell. Like Peter walking on the sea, the fears overcame him and he started going down. Of course, the inevitable result of this small crash was a skinned knee and a scratched elbow along with a sense of failure.
What happens next is the most important thing. Do his parents encourage him for the twenty feet of success or do they reinforce his fear that he is going to be seriously hurt?
#1 Dad and mom rush to Timmy and pick him up, laughing and smiling and saying, “You did it. You did it.” Timmy brushes himself off, wipes away a tear, visits the Bandaid box and tries again, gaining a little more success each time. He practices starting and stopping with dad’s coaching; and that day he finds that he can do what he thought he could not do. Twenty feet! Growth! Success! Confidence! Yes!
#2 Mom gets to Timmy first crying, “Oh my baby! Oh my baby! Are you hurt? I knew you weren’t ready. ” She holds him tight and gives dad a condemning glance. Together, mom and Timmy cry until they go inside to the infirmary, where he is properly “fussed over” and can convalesce with a cookie and a glass of milk. The adventure of the day is over and will not be picked up again until another day, or another week, or maybe even another year. Crash! Failure! Hurt! Fear! Delay!
As parents, we are the interpreters of the events in our children’s lives. We can focus on the attempts and partial successes or we can focus on the falls. I encourage you to focus on the twenty feet, not the crash.
Paul instructed in his letters, “Encourage the faint-hearted.”
Henry Ford said, “One of the great discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”
Focus on the twenty feet!