life lessons learned the hard way

5 Signs Your Kids Need to Learn the Hard Way

When I was in fifth grade, I begged my parents for a mini basketball hoop. The day I got it, I was so excited. I played for hours. One day, my parents told me to move it to a different place in the garage because it was going to get knocked over. I told them I’d move it but didn’t. Again, they told me if it fell, it would break, so I needed to move it. And once again, I told them I would but left it right where it was. The next day, I came home from school, and there it was—lying flat in the garage. The backboard was completely demolished. My parents never said a word, nor did I. It was one of those life lessons learned the hard way.

One of my greatest hopes as a dad is that my kids will avoid some of the pain I’ve endured. I want to teach them so they don’t repeat the mistakes I’ve made and feel their sting. But pain is a great teacher and is sometimes necessary for us to grow. Sometimes we need to let our kids feel the natural consequences of their actions. Here are 5 signs your kids will need to have life lessons learned the hard way.

1. They ignore advice.

I was joking with a coworker the other day and told her she could ignore my advice. She told me she never ignores my advice, even when she’s throwing it in the trash. I wasn’t offended in the slightest. That’s what we should do with all advice. It doesn’t need to be followed, but always should be considered. This is especially true if the advice is given by someone with experience. If your kids ignore your advice, they are probably choosing the painful road to learning.

2. They repeat the same mistakes over and over.

I love my daughter. She’s one of the most compliant kids a dad could ever ask for, but her Achilles heel is creating messes—messes so bad you can’t even walk in her room. It routinely takes her painstaking and tear-filled hours to clean. I’ve tried to teach her every way I can think of to avoid the pain of long clean-ups but to no avail. If a child makes the same mistakes over and over, hopefully he or she will finally get tired enough of the pain to make a change.

3. They surround themselves with bad influences.

You eventually become what you surround yourself with. Bad influences will lead us to make poor decisions and live with increased stress and drama. If your kids won’t listen to your warnings, they’ll suffer the pain and exhaustion of these influences. Whatever you do, don’t cut them off or heap shame on them. You don’t want to damage your relationship, especially if and when they finally come to their senses.

4. They consistently take unnecessary risks.

The easiest soldiers to send to the front lines are teenagers. Their ability to see the consequences of risk is limited. That’s why we need to help them forecast it. Then there are those who are risk junkies. It’s like a drug to them, making them feel exhilarated and alive. For those kids, we need to find healthy outlets of risk and adventure that have lower rates of consequences like white water rafting, hiking, and rock climbing. When our kids take unnecessary risks, the potential for disaster is too great to let it work itself out.

5. They lie.

I once read something that said that “the worst part of lying is when you get caught.” I disagree. The worst part of lying is when you get away with it. It teaches you that you can enter into destructive behavior and then cover it up. Ultimately, our character and integrity suffer, which negatively impacts our lives in every way, from our careers to our relationships. In our house, lying receives the most difficult disciplinary actions because there is so much at risk. Do whatever you can to help them avoid the hard way with this one.

Sound off: What are some other possible signs that kids need some life lessons learned the hard way?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Which way would you rather learn: by the consequences I choose for you or by natural consequences?”