by Michael Holland    

I believe one of the hardest behaviors I’ve had to learn as a dad is to hold back on solving a situation for one of my kids so that they can make their own decision.  It can be crushing to watch the events unfold, visualizing potential train wrecks as I struggle against my “lean in” instincts, holding back the fatherly advice that could resolve the issue.

As fathers, we develop and enforce rules to help our kids stay safe and to educate them regarding our beliefs and values.  The rules create guardrails to guide behavior.  But at a certain point rules take judgment out of the hands of our kids, lessening the growth of their ability to make decisions.   In the words of Bill Robinson,

Less talent is needed to follow a rule than to make a well-reasoned decision

We need our kids to become good decision-makers, and that ability comes with practice.  Living with the consequences of good and bad decisions allows our kids to develop the skill they will so badly need once they are off on their own. It will develop kids who are thinkers.

There’s no magic formula in some super-secret fathering handbook that tells us exactly when we should enable kids to begin to make big decisions.  And that’s how it should be.  We fathers must not look to rules to guide how we make decisions on raising our kids.  We must use our own skill in decision-making. And our choices breed the wisdom we’ll impart to our kids 15 or 20 years later when they come to us seeking advice on how to raise their own kids.