I love those little “aha” moments in life, like when I’m struggling to understand assembly instructions written in another language and I suddenly realize I’ve been holding the main piece upside down the entire time. Or when I’m two-thirds of the way through a mystery and I catch the one clue that allows me to identify the killer well before the detective. For that brief shining moment, I feel like I could solve any of life’s toughest puzzles.
I think that’s why people challenge themselves: To feel that sense of accomplishment when things click into place. Even if it takes hours to memorize information for a test or mere minutes to figure out how to program a smartphone, that rush of adrenaline at the moment of success is a prize in itself.
As a parent, I’m trying to convince my kids that figuring something out on their own is worth working for. My five-year-old son, in particular, would much rather have me take care of things than struggle when he has trouble. And of course, I want to swoop in and rescue him before he starts to cry.
But where will that leave him in life? Should I follow him to college and help him with his finals? Show up at his work and tell his boss to stop being so mean?
Of course not (at least I hope I don’t turn into one of those parents!). That’s why I need to start early to teach them the value of hard work. When they ask for my help, I try to step back and see if this is something they can accomplish on their own or if it really requires adult intervention. If I force them to try, they can then experience their own “aha” moments, like the first time my oldest tied his shoes, or the first time my youngest wrote the number five.
Those lessons are much more valuable than anything I could ever tell the kids.