Parable of the Pickle Jar

I am going to use my own Parable of the Pickle Jar to convey a belief I have about parenting.

Here goes:

My hands or my grip must be weak because I often can’t open up jars and lids or even sippy cups.

And my pickle jar is no exception.

I pull it out of the fridge and give the lid a twist.  If  I can’t get it open after a try or two and my husband is home, I ask him to open it for me.  Why should I struggle when it is so easy for him?

But if my husband isn’t home when my pickle jar is stuck, something amazing happens. I tap into all my problem solving skills and resources.  I run the lid under water; I tap it on the edge of the counter; I let Crew have a stab at it; I grab a towel and try to get a better grip.  I summon my super human strength and grunt and my face turns red and I get that jar open.  Only once over the years of jar struggle have I actually had to go to the neighbor to open a jar.

Therein lies the Parable of the Pickle Jar.

Sometimes my kids are like me when my husband is home.  They call for help too quickly.  And I am like my husband rushing in too soon to save the day.  When I do rush to their aide, I rob my children of valuable problem solving, resource tapping, self-esteem building experiences.

For example, I see the Parable of the Pickle Jar as I watch Locke do puzzles.  He has a piece and he can’t quite figure out where it goes.  He grunts and looks at me. I just want to jump in and turn that piece so it fits or point to where it goes.  But if I wait, give him some encouragement, and give his little brain enough time to think this through, 9 times out of 10 he can figure out where the piece goes on his own.  If I can be patient and back off, I just let his brain grow and make connections and develop.

I see the Parable of the Pickle Jar as Croft is trying to decode a new word in reading.  She wants me to help her out with a new word at first glance or I want to just tell her what it is so we can get on with the book.  But if I ask a question  to get her thinking, or give her time to look at the pictures, or try a word or two, she can usually figure out the word on her own.  She has just developed reading strategies for future words when mom isn’t there.

I see the Parable of the Pickle Jar when Crew doesn’t get his homework at the first glance. He yells, “Mom I don’t get it.”   I can walk over and tell him how to do it or I can say “Try reading it again.” OR  “You’ve got this.” OR “I will be over in 5 minutes.   Do your best to figure it out.”  This works for Crew because it is not that he isn’t smart.  He just doesn’t want to have to work too hard.  More times than not, if I wait to rescue him, then he ends up saying, “Nevermind.  I figured it out.”  He just learned that he really can do homework on his own.

I could give you example after example where moms rush in too fast to solve our kids’ problems.  We do this because A. we are usually in a hurry and just doing it for them is the faster way. But I think we also rush in to solve a problem because B. we think we are being a good mom when we help and rescue.  We love our kids and it is in our nature to nurture.

But I would submit that waiting to rescue is actually more nurturing.  See, the word nurture means ‘to help grow’ and I believe that  we need to give our kids just the right amount of space with their struggles because it is that space when our children actually grow the most.

Now I am not advocating that we keep our kids in a constant state of frustration.  Some times that dang pickle jar just won’t open no matter what I try. There is a time and a place to help our children (especially if there is lots of blood).

But I am saying maybe we shouldn’t rush right in– right away.  We could give our kids some time to reread,  make a guess, try a new strategy, have a do-over, think, do some research.  Maybe they will summon super human strength and surprise themselves with what is really down deep inside them.  They will have more self confidence and success when they learn resourcefulness, strategies and problem solving– when they learn to open the pickle jar by themselves.

(Do you think Chad will ever open a pickle jar again for me after this post?)



6 thoughts on “Parable of the Pickle Jar”

  1. Great post. My oldest is to the point now, that he usually does his homework without help. Sometimes, I wish he would ask for a little help… is that bad?

  2. Great post. It really made me think. Heavenly Father does this very thing as he gives us so many opportunities to grow and stretch…he doesn’t jump right in to solve our problems. We can learn a thing or two from that.

  3. My husband and I first started having this conversation (though without the great parable) since my eldest, my son, was learning to climb up on things.
    Owen would toddle over to something and clamber on top of it and then holler about how to get down. Or he would climb higher and higher on something and I’d be afraid he’d fall.
    I’d start to get up and my husband would touch my knee and tell me to “give him a minute to figure it out. let him take a chance, even if he falls, he won’t be badly hurt and either way he’ll learn something.”
    But – – this way my BABY! It was torture to me to just sit there. My hubby just laughed at me and said, “Honey, this is why God made two parents. Dads are just better at observing and letting kids take chances, Moms want to keep them safe and keep the tears from flowing.”
    I was stunned. He was right. I have been so grateful for that moment of God-given clarity over the years.
    Now that we have three children and, at their various ages, the challenges are so different, it’s important to remember that loving presence of watching them from the sidelines, expecting them to succeed. (but still being their after to cheer or dry tears)
    It IS much easier on my husband – on most men – because “society” judges mothers so much more harshly, but I kinda like that challenge!

  4. Hopped over here from Clover Lane. This is hilarious and so true!

    ps- next time you need to open something hard put a thick elastic around the lid, twist the new grippy surface, and it opens, like magic. 🙂

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