Preparing the Path for Your Child

By Janis Meredith | Posted 5/11/2020

When kids are little, parents make things very easy for them in a lot of ways. We make it easy for our kids to reach the basketball rim, we hide in easy places during hide ‘n seek, and we give them head starts in races. In early childhood, this gives them a sense of confidence, but there comes a point when the child is older that there needs to be a shift away from that.

Why is that? Because kids will form unrealistic expectations of how easy life is and how much better they are than other kids.

Tim Elmore, author of 12 Huge Parenting Mistakes You Can Avoid explains why: We fail to call out for the very best in them, assuming we must smooth the road and make things easy for them. When we do so, life feels good to them on the outside (it’s easier), but it doesn’t feel good on the inside (they don’t respect themselves). As they age, we actually make it harder for them to reach their potential. When we make this mistake, their childhood works fine, but their adulthood looks bleak.

As parents, most of us know that preparing our kids for the path is more important than preparing the path for them. It’s just so hard to watch them struggle. We know we shouldn’t make things easy, but we jump to the conclusion that smoothing the path makes their self-esteem stronger.

However, the honest truth is that confidence will be built not by compliments, but by providing your child with plenty of opportunities to learn new skills. Mastery, not praise is the true self-esteem builder.

Edward Hallowell, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness says:

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the best thing you can do for your child’s long-term happiness may be to stop trying to keep them happy in the short-term.

The other day I was watching Simone Biles, World Champion and Olympic Gymnast, on the balance beam. Such a precarious skill!

In the same way, parenting is a very precarious balancing act. Lean too far to one side and our kids become spoiled and entitled. Lean too far to the other side and they become fearful and insecure. The balance that parents must master is to be both strong and sensitive.

My dad used to say that parents should have an iron fist in a velvet glove. Velvet on the outside — accepting, loving, supportive. And iron on the inside — modeling values, defining boundaries and holding our kids accountable.

It may take practice for you to strike this balance, but it’s okay to start small. Big overnight change is not likely to last. If you are consistent in small steps, you can master this “balance beam” of parenting almost as well as Simone does.

Elmore explains that wise parents “inoculate” their kids. He uses the example of traveling to a developing nation that requires immunizations. The traveler gets inoculated, which actually means that a small dose of the disease is injected into the body so that the body builds up enough antibodies to fight off the disease when the traveler arrives in a foreign country.

This is a picture of what we should do as parents. To help our kids grow strong enough to face hard things in life, we should let them have small doses early on. If we want them to have discipline later in life, we must let them faces challenges—in smaller amounts, of course—so they can face bigger ones later.

That, my friends, is the parent’s job. That is preparing the child for the unknown path of life ahead.

Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at


USA Football's new model for youth football is designed to make the game safer by reducing contact and by teaching the game based on an athlete's age, the skill they are learning and game type.