Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

To be perfectly honest, I know very little about George S. Patton. I know that he served as a General for the U.S. Army during World War II, and he is largely celebrated as a military hero. As I understand it, he’s also known for some of the controversial public statements he made over the years. Today’s post isn’t about politics, but rather how a couple of Patton’s lines can be adapted to our modern, everyday lives.

Most assuredly, the quote above was originally intended from an organizational or military perspective. But it really got me thinking about the context of modern parenthood. Something that I’ve really been able to embrace from my daughter’s preschool is that they don’t simply teach them what to do. They don’t just tell them what’s what. Rather, they allow the children to explore new concepts and ideas on their own.

For quite some time, I struggled as a helicopter parent. Don’t touch that. Don’t climb that. Don’t do this or don’t do that. And then I came across the term “lawnmower parent.” These are parents who mow down all the obstacles that are in their children’s way. They think they’re making lives easier for their kids, but they’re denying them the opportunity to face those challenges themselves.

But part of our job as parents is to help prepare these children for the real world. To prepare them for the hardships, frustrations and logistics of adulthood. As difficult as it may be, despite the fact that you want what’s “best” for them, you have to learn to let them go. They’ll never learn their limits or how to pick themselves back up if you don’t let them fall every now and then.

Yes, we can arm our children with facts and figures, but what we understand as the truth is in a constant state of flux. We can provide procedural manuals for how to do things, but there are always superior alternatives yet to be discovered. To this end, as Neil deGrasse Tyson once said, we’d much rather have a generation of kids “who can figure stuff out” than kids who simply regurgitate what we feed them.

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.

George S. Patton certainly isn’t the first polarizing figure that I’ve featured in this space. From Hillary Clinton to Charlton Heston, I’ve always understood that we can learn from almost anyone. Just because you don’t agree with one aspect of someone’s opinion doesn’t mean you should disregard the entirety of their opinion.

But we need to be respectful in our discourse. We need to step outside our respective echo chambers, because conflict is necessary for progress. That’s how we arrive at unique perspectives, novel ideas, and creative solutions to our common problems. Like figuring out how to get a preschooler to finish her supper.