School Beat: Prepare the Child for the Road

By Mike Westgate,

2017-18 Principal Cannonsburg Elementary

One of my favorite quotes as an educator and a parent is, “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.” Many parents today believe it is their mission to remove the obstacles for their children. Not wanting to see their kids struggle, they find ways around life’s challenges either by taking care of the child’s responsibility for them or by finding excuses.

As a parent, we desire to protect our children and sometimes we need to. But if we are not careful, we can foster a sense of entitlement, when what they really need to do is develop character and manage their attitudes. 

We live in an age where we overindulge our kids. It’s hard not to clear every obstacle in our children’s path so they can be happy now – getting what they want, when they want it. We concentrate so hard on keeping our kids happy, often at the expense of developing qualities like character, perseverance, patience, determination and resolve. This can make their life too easy, not allowing them to build life-coping skills they’ll need down the road to handle life’s hard realities and be happy, successful adults.

One day, our kids will experience adult-sized rejection, disappointment and adversity. Learning through experiences and with our guidance healthy ways to cope when the stakes aren’t as high will serve them well.  Failing a test or not making a team is not the end of the world. Let them experience the pride and confidence that comes when they push through an obstacle and emerge stronger on the other side.

Ultimately, part of our job as parents and educators is to help our kids experience success and thrive on their own without us.  We should look past instant gratification and short-lived happiness.  We should value the character over the trophies because it’s not trophies that develop the child, but rather the stories behind those trophies. When a child leaves home at age 18, their trophies stay in their bedroom. The stories of how those trophies were earned, however, travel with them.