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Raising Kids Is Kind Of Like Training Horses, But Not Quite

training a horse and raising a kid

Anyone who rides a horse knows you can’t always put your horse in the perfect position; you have to let them make mistakes. You let them figure out that the wrong way is uncomfortable, letting them feel pressure when they’re doing a wrong behavior, and release when they are in the correct position or doing it “right.” 

 I think I’m a better horseman than father, but I’ve found that both horses and kids are pretty forgiving as long as you’re trying to help them out. With both species, consistency is the most important thing, followed closely by making sure they’re prepared and capable of doing what you ask. If the foundation has been properly laid, I think they both enjoy being asked to excel.

I don’t mind giving a horse his head and allowing him to make a mistake. However, with the kids, I probably spend too much time trying to prevent them from making a mistake.

One of the things I love about living on a ranch is that kids get the chance to think for themselves. They can get pretty creative trying to get a job done sometimes. When you’re training a horse, you must always try to find something positive to quit on. When a horse is struggling, and we quit on a good note, they seem to figure things out overnight in their stall. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve  been unable to get a concept across to a horse or a kid, only to give up, give them a little affirmation, and come back the next day with the problem resolved. And it’s resolved because they figured it out on their own.

 This next statement may sound a little sexist, but I believe moms are supposed to be more protective. Meanwhile, dads are supposed to encourage kids to take a few more risks, and learn from their mistakes. The hard thing to manage, of course, is expectations. With a horse, you kind of know the burden is on you, but with kids, the more potential you see the more you expect.

I’m guilty of setting the bar too high at times for my kids, and probably responding too harshly if they fall short. I really do want my kids to be perfect.


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With horses, the burden is not so severe, as there’s always another ride or another show. Plus, you can simply sell them if they aren’t a great match for you. With kids everything seems so important. While few events can be designated as a defining moment for kids, a series of failures can really set them back from achieving their goals.

Like any adult, I tend to forget all the mistakes I made in my youth. God knows that I continue to make mistakes as an adult. But I think God gives us everything to be prepared for the challenges we face, but allows us to make mistake after mistake. Of course, there are consequences for those mistakes, but He is always there.

The tough thing about letting your kids make mistakes is that it entails watching them deal with the consequences. Because I know I’ve made mistakes, it’s only natural to want to protect my kids from experiencing those missteps as well. But I just need to keep reminding myself that there’s nothing better than the feeling of being able to throw a horse that loose rein and be confident that he’ll stay soft and supple and between the reins.

I guess the difference between horses and kids is that, while I want my kids to go out on their own and carve out their own destiny, there’s a part of me that wants to keep hold of those reins.


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