Dear parents,

A long time ago, my dad told me something that stuck with me.

It was at a time when I was first realizing what an unreasonable jackass my siblings and I had been at times in our childhood. Despite this, he did a great job raising me (if I do say so myself). I wanted to know how he did it. He said:

“You don’t need to raise children any particular way. You just need to love them. They’ll figure out the rest.”

Love doesn’t mean making their lives easier. Love doesn’t mean buying them things they want. Love doesn’t mean stepping in to make them happy when they’re sad. Love doesn’t mean solving their problems for them. Love doesn’t mean disciplining them when they do something wrong. Love doesn’t mean providing everything you can for them.

Love means respecting them as an individual. Love means letting them experience all the beauty (and the pain) that life has to offer. Love means giving them the freedom to make their own decisions. Love means always being there for support when they choose to lean on you. Love means giving them space to be themselves.


The more you provide for your child, the the less they will learn to provide for themselves.


It seems like a contradiction, but it’s the nature of reality. I get it–you want to give them as much as you can so that they’ll be safe and taken care of. This is a reasonable desire. It’s your job to take care of them. You want them to be safe. You want them to be happy. You want them to achieve everything they dream of.

But remember how you got everything you have. Remember how you achieved your dreams. You worked hard for it. You earned it without shortcuts. Nobody handed it to you. You went through all the tough times necessary, working long hours, scraping money together to pay the bills, not having easy access to the luxuries that you saw other people have. You struggled.

In your unpleasant struggles, you resolved to never let your children suffer in that way. You decided that you would provide for them in a way that your parents didn’t for you.

It was this very suffering that gave you the ability to provide for yourself and your family.

I’ll say that again:


The fact that you suffered is the very reason that you earned the ability to help your children not suffer.


By removing suffering from your children’s lives, you’re taking away the thing that shaped you into a person who is able to achieve, succeed, and provide. By removing suffering from your children’s lives, you’re leaving them unprepared to face the real world without your nursing hand. You’re creating, within them, a dependence on you. You’re instilling in them beliefs that are not congruent with actual reality.

This is not love. Love is fostering an environment where they are free to learn, fail, and grow on their own accord. This is how they will grow up to be confident, independent individuals with the ability to achieve their dreams on their own.

As a parent, your child’s safety is a huge priority (as it should be). If they want to do something that you know might lead to utter failure, financial or other, let them do it. Remember how you learned that same lesson. Don’t deprive them of the invaluable experience of learning it firsthand. Don’t coddle them into believing reality is rife with shortcuts. It’s not. Let them find out for themselves.

I suppose this may be a natural cycle of generations. If you hand your children everything, they’ll grow up unable to provide for themselves and their families, leaving their children to suffer in the way that you did due to their inability to provide. That suffering will shape them into people who learn the ability to provide, just like you did, and the story continues.

I’m not saying you should deprive your kid of everything luxurious or intentionally make their life harder than it has to be. But don’t shield them from the natural law of cause and effect. Don’t give them things without allowing them to them understand what they are, why they exist, and how they came to be. Don’t let them go through life receiving things without understanding how they got there. Don’t do things for them because you know it’s good for them. Let them decide what’s good for them through trial and error. Let them fail. Let them take risks and experience the outcomes.

As a parent, it is still your responsibility to provide for them. Provide shelter, food, love, and support. Love them. Let them create the rest for themselves. In this pursuit, they’ll fail–a lot. Watch them. Don’t give them the answers. Help them learn for themselves when they ask you for support.

I’m not a parent, but I imagine it’s difficult to watch your child struggle when you can’t provide happiness and satisfaction for them. I imagine it’s even harder to choose not to provide it when you have the ability to do so. But just like everything else in life, doing the hard thing now leads to a better situation in the long term. This applies to you, too.

My parents often stepped in and provided something for me before allowing me to stumble through getting it myself. Every time this happened, I’ve had to learn that same lesson on my own later in life. Their intervention in my life only delayed my growth.

You might know what’s best for your children. You might know exactly what they should do to achieve their dreams. You might even have the means to get them there faster. They might say they want your help. Help them by resisting. Let them be.

Just love them. They’ll figure out the rest.