Avoiding Life’s Hard Lessons

I’ve always prided myself on being able to learn some of life’s tougher lessons vicariously – by watching others around me, and the mistakes they have made.  Despite that, it still amazes me how often I ended up learning some of life’s lessons the hard way – embarrassingly, sometimes more than once!  So one of my goals is to teach my children how to really look around & listen, and learn as many of life’s hard lessons as they can vicariously.  Don’t go down those avenues – I tell them – rather learn from others’ mistakes in those instances.

The Lessons…

Some of the lessons I would hope they would be able to learn vicariously would be : 1)  Never even try smoking, or drugs. 2) Lead an active lifestyle (as opposed to sedentary) –  to exercise and eat healthy.  3) Be careful and slow in relationships – both personal and in business, and 4)  Take some risks in life – rather than living a life full of regrets for never having tried….

I don’t want my children to have to experience the pain that some of these mistakes can cause when – from our parental perspective – they can easily, and should clearly, be avoided.  I don’t feel any reasonable person could make a compelling argument to me that it would be better or preferable for any child to learn not to use drugs or start smoking from experiences with those drugs and substances as opposed to learning that lesson vicariously.   

When we see those public service announcements on TV about smoking or drugs (like the one above) I talk to the children about them – even at their young ages.  I have a lot of respect and empathy for those people that find themselves in a really bad place and genuinely want to help others to learn from their mistakes.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”

– Isaac Newton –

Learn Like Scientists…

It’s like what has been said in the past with regards to scientists and their discoveries –   current scientists build on what others have discovered – their successes & failures. They don’t go back to step one and redo everything or rebuild everything from scratch!   Sir Isaac Newton once said “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” – which was similar in expression to what had been said earlier by Bernard of Chartres as described in the writings of John of Salisbury in 1159. Is that not what we should be doing for our children – hoisting them on our shoulders – so they can see further,  go farther and be better people than us?

The Process…

The key is that we observe , identify and talk about consequences (outcomes), and the behaviors that led to those consequences (outcomes).  It really is a method that can be used to reinforce decision making skills for all behaviors in regards to both good and bad outcomes.  For example, if we observe destructive behaviors (like smoking)- we identify them as such and talk about negative consequences that will likely result from engaging in such behaviors (cancer, reduced athletic ability, etc).  If we are able to observe only the consequences, and they are good (good career, successful YouTuber) – we try to identify the behaviors (hard work, perseverance) that might have contributed or caused the desirable consequences or outcomes that we were able to observe.  

I constantly remind our children that I am on their side and their guide for the early part of their lives.  I explain that Mom & Dad truly have their best interests in mind – even if it doesn’t seem so at times.  I hope that by really building this foundation of trust and establishing open lines of communication with them at these early ages – that they can rely on that relationship and those lines of communication in the future – when life tempts them with a hard lesson or they are tested. 


The reality is that life will present many opportunities to my children to learn it’s lessons the hard way.  My goal and role as a parent is to prepare them for that fact and help them develop the vicarious learning skills necessary to equip them to be able to clearly identify those situations and avoid the path that leads to the hard lesson.



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Blessed father of 4 wonderful children & trophy husband to 1 lovely wife. Part-time blogger, full-time nerd & aspiring Renaissance man!

Articles: 186

All constructive comments are welcome!

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