Home motherhood/family/parenting Keep Them From the Jalapeños (Why Letting Them Learn the Hard Way is a Bad Idea

Keep Them From the Jalapeños (Why Letting Them Learn the Hard Way is a Bad Idea

by Kelly Crawford

Keep Them From the Jalapeños (Why Letting Them Learn the Hard Way is a Bad Idea

She held onto my leg, her compelling, blue eyes begging me for what I was eating…

Jalapeño potato chips.

“These will burn you, baby.”

She’s only a year old.  She understands “no”, but she doesn’t quite understand “why.”

She bounced up and down for added protest.

“I’m so sorry…these will hurt you.”

Funny how being a mom makes you see life in everything.

I hear a lot of parents say, “Kids just have to experience life for themselves to learn anything.”

There is some truth in that, but it’s missing a lot.

Often the “life” being referred to in that statement is sin.  A truer interpretation might be, “just let them sin and learn the hard way.

I don’t think that’s the parenting method the Bible teaches.

Jesus was serious about avoiding sin at all costs.  He talked of cutting off limbs to emphasize his seriousness.  And that was spoken to adults. Somehow I just don’t hear Jesus saying to parents, “Yeah, go ahead and let them dabble…it’ll be good for them in the end.”

“…after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Parents are to help lead their children to life, steering them away from desires that give birth to sin.  It’s not their job to just figure it out; they are an inheritance and it is our job to warn, teach, lead, protect and guide.  “I beg you, my son, to heed my instruction…”

We need more begging parents.

I could have given Ellia a chip and let her learn the hard way that “I told her so.”  But whether it’s my baby or my 16-year-old, there are certain things I know will be destructive to them, though they don’t understand.  There will be enough life lessons left to learn the hard way.

On my watch, I will guide their feet to the path of life and do what I can to keep them away from the jalapeños.

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Carmen September 14, 2010 - 1:13 pm

Great post! So true!!

Kelly L September 14, 2010 - 1:58 pm

Awesome! Such a great analogy! Thanks!

Sandy September 14, 2010 - 2:02 pm

Another great post, Kelly.

One need only read through the book of Proverbs to see the need to flee from sin, to hear counselors, and to avoid scoffing at wisdom shared with us.

My tendency is to glean from the experiences of others because, in all honesty, I don’t want to personally experience all the potential hurt and pain that’s out there.

We often remind our children of the benefits of learning from others… whether it be Scripture or another person. Sometimes they “get it,” but other times they make choices that bring consequences, something they could have avoided if they’d only thought it through better or listened to wise counsel. As a parent, it hurts to watch them experience the consequences because we know they could have been avoided. It becomes a matter of faith on my part, then, trusting that God will use the experience for something good… to make my child stronger or, possibly, to teach others.

I hate to see an opportunity wasted. Even a “bad” experience can be used for good if we learn from it and grow through it. Then we need to be aware of opportunities for God to use that experience. Sometimes I wonder if Christians miss the very thing God intends from a situation. If we would do a better job of being transparent and sharing lessons God teaches us through even the difficult times in our lives, we could be more effective in encouraging one another to righteousness, to faith, and to right responses in situations. Too often, we keep those experiences to ourselves because we’re embarrassed or afraid we might be judged by others. We need to be careful that our pride doesn’t keep us from investing in others, especially our children. We have a Biblical responsibility to train them in God’s ways, and part of that is lovingly protecting them from things that can pull them away from God.

Kim M September 14, 2010 - 2:06 pm

Great analogy. Sharing on facebook…

Lady Rose September 14, 2010 - 2:11 pm

This analogy should appear to be common sense knowledge to most people, yet, unfortunately, it is not. You did an excellent job of articulating the importance of keeping children from sin, regardless of how “small” the sin might appear.

-Lady Rose

Sylvia September 14, 2010 - 3:01 pm

Wow !! Really good analogy. I can relate very well to this but in a very different way.

I am a first generation immigrant and as most there are two things I held on to and are very important. Food and language. Much as I like American food or the plethora of cuisines available in here, there is something that is so different about the food of my native country that reminds me of home, family, memories etc.

I wanted to pass on that to my children. I come from a country where food is hot and spicy. Sometimes both. We learn to balance that out with things like buttermilk, yogurt etc or heart burn will be a constant companion. So children are trained from a young age to eat spicy foods. They are introduced little by little as children. The family does not change their food habits for a child, instead a child is taught to fit in. I for instance, make food which is normal for my husband and I, but would be spicy for a young child. So I would wash off a piece of chicken to take ths sting of the spice or heat, but there would still be remnants of it. The taste has permeated the meat.I kept offering it to them until they learned to adapt. Same with vegetables. And language. We spoke to them from a very young age so they will pick up by ear both English and our native language.

We would however not teach them electricity is dangerous by hoping they would stick their fingers into a socket or stairs are dangerous. We baby proofed the house. They were babies/ toddlers when we did this.

Every family raises children a certain way dependent on culture, valuues etc. There is no one way. This is just a very brief glimpse into how we raise ours.

Linda September 14, 2010 - 4:00 pm

I love this post. So true. I get weary of hearing young people say they are the type who just “has the learn the hard way”.

I read that the food we eat flavors the placenta fluid and influences the preferences of our children in the womb. It makes sense to me… the children I ate hot and spicey while carrying them love hot and spicey now. The one I was extra sick with and had to eat bland foods while pregnant hates spicey foods and likes the bland foods.
Off the subject, but I thought it was a fun fact.

Kelly L September 14, 2010 - 4:39 pm

Linda, I always cringe when I hear people say that too! They confess it over their lives and then complain when it comes true! If only we could focus on being as good as stewards with our mouths as we are with our money!

Jennifer Griffin September 14, 2010 - 4:18 pm

I needed this today! I love it! What a great reminder to not give in.

Rosalie Pauls September 14, 2010 - 4:24 pm

Well put!

LucyT September 14, 2010 - 7:20 pm

Kelly,I wish I could just soak up everything you have going on in that heart and head of yours.You are such a blessing to me and my family.I have spent years in church and still feel sometimes I am walking in the dark.I come here daily to find trueth and light.I know God teaches me through you.So many beliefs I have formed through bible study are confirmed here on your blog.

Word Warrior September 14, 2010 - 7:28 pm


What a sweet, heart-felt comment…thank you for that. Although I assure you, you don’t want to soak up *everything* 😉 as I daily repent for bad attitudes, wrong reactions and the feeling of complete inadequacy. It is only by His grace any of us make it through the day!

Anne September 14, 2010 - 9:31 pm

So true! Thank you for speaking the Truth in Love. Parents have been deceived into believing they should seek to be a friend to their children instead of their parents. My job as a parent in to instruct, train, and discipline when necessary. If they end up liking me, that’s great, but that is not my goal as a parent. Thankfully, if we allow the Lord to speak to our children through us, we end up with wonderful relationships with them as adults. It is such a testimony to His Faithfulness to have a married daughter who thanks us for doing the “hard things” in raising her. She tells us how grateful she is for the way we raised her. One down, six more children to go!! EEEKKK! :)Thankfully, He is still God!!

Bethany Hudson September 14, 2010 - 9:34 pm

It strikes me that most parents really DO want to protect their children. I wonder if what we are seeing in the divergence of parents from their roles as protectors is that they themselves were not protected as children. So many parents today come, themselves, from broken homes where both parents worked long hours and at least by the time we were teens, many of us were fending for ourselves.

In order to parent the way Scripture calls us to–the way GOD parents us as our Heavenly Father–we have to accept that our own upbringings were less than perfect. We have to embrace that, embrace our parents anyway, and rise above it. Perhaps then, we would stop saying, “Let them learn the hard way.” We would no longer be blinded by our own pasts, and we could finally see what is truly best for our children.

Sylvia September 15, 2010 - 10:35 am

“In order to parent the way Scripture calls us to–the way GOD parents us as our Heavenly Father–we have to accept that our own upbringings were less than perfect. We have to embrace that, embrace our parents anyway, and rise above it. Perhaps then, we would stop saying, “Let them learn the hard way.” We would no longer be blinded by our own pasts, and we could finally see what is truly best for our children.”

Please forgive me for misunderstanding. I am not from America. I do not know your past or you or your family or how you were parented. But from your post it comes across that you feel ‘something was missing’ and you seem to want to make it up to your children.

I think all of us want the best for our children. We want to parent biblically. We want to protect. We want to raise strong christians. But the question is how ? The best example for me is my parents. Whose choices were not pefect. Maybe we do not make the same choices. Even our flawed parents. They may not have made the best choices. But can we parent ‘pefectly’ or ‘make the best choices’. No. We can do our best and give them to God. I hope my children do not look back at me and see only regrets or what I did wrong even if their choices are not my own. And forgive me for my mistakes. And do not make their choices according to my mistakes which is what your post seems to convey. And please forgive me for misunderstanding. I do not know you or your heart.

Bethany Hudson September 15, 2010 - 12:03 pm


I’m afraid I do not quite understand what you are saying, either. What I meant to convey is that (at least in America–and much of the West), many people in my generation come from broken (divorced or single-parent) homes. Also, the vast majority of us had two parents working, sometimes very long hours–if both parents were even still in the same house. Many American parents told themselves, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and took that attitude in their parenting as well. It is hard, I think, for my generation to accept that, perhaps, this is not the best way to parent. Yes, sometimes, we need to rise above circumstances–but sometimes we parents need to CREATE the most favorable circumstances for our children–and sometimes that means giving up what we want in the heat of the moment or taking the easy road in order to do what’s best for our children.

Interestingly, I did not have this “broken home” upbringing myself (though my parents divorced when I was in college). Still, it is something I saw in many, many of my peers. I see the fall-out now that we are becoming parents. I know Kelly comes from a loving, Christian home. My point was: for those who didn’t, there must be healing and acceptance of the past before one can fully accept that, perhaps, there is a better way.

God bless,

Sylvia September 15, 2010 - 2:42 pm


Thank you for clarifying. I did not grow up in America and I was raised a different way. Two parent house hold and very loving. But mom worked outside the home, we were raised with grandparents, went to private school etc. All choices that sometimes people say will not turn out good christians. Which is not my experience.

To someone like me without the background that you gave me in your current post, your previous post came across like blaming parents for their mistakes and making choices other than that based on that upbringing. So I asked. It may seem obvious to all readers, but I am missing a huge part of the conversation and trying to understand. I have heard many people blame parents for their own mistakes long past the time they were old enough to take responsibility. So that is why I asked. And so sorry if I did not convey my point across properly.

“My point was: for those who didn’t, there must be healing and acceptance of the past before one can fully accept that, perhaps, there is a better way.”

I completely agree with this.

Print or message boards do not convey our heart. English is not my first language and I lack the eloquence but hope I am kind even when I am disagreeing with someone or asking for clarifications, and hope my questions do not come across like accusations. Especially then.

Thank you once again.
God Bless you.

Bethany Hudson September 15, 2010 - 5:40 pm


I’m so glad that we clarifed things. You are right; we cannot simply blame our parents, and we should do our best to see the very best in them, just as we would want our own children to do with us. What I was referring to was something beyond mistakes to a culture that has chosen, at times, to put the whims of parents above what is best for the children.

And, English may not be your first language, but you certainly do not lack eloquence! You expressed yourself with clarity and grace, and I thank you.

God bless,

Yama September 14, 2010 - 11:01 pm

Another awesome, very true post! Thank you for sharing!!

Learn the Hard Way? Quit Tattling? | The Olive Branch September 14, 2010 - 11:26 pm

[…] heard that phrase a bunch. And I’ve always detested it. Kelly, at Generation Cedar, had a wonderful post today on that phrase … and said what she thought in a better way than I could have. Check it […]

Liz September 15, 2010 - 6:49 am

Great post.My son is entering the teenage years and I have had a few people tell me “now is the time for him to make his mistakes” and stuff like that. I want to keep him out of trouble, not try it out and see how it goes! I tell him it’s essier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.

Flicka Johnson September 15, 2010 - 8:45 am

Kelly, I hear what you are saying about leaving children to their own devices to learn the hard way. I made my share of mistakes but after they are grown they/we still learn the hard way with that concept. Immediate obedience is best learned at a young age.

I would have liked to have had parents who taught Gods way more and I would have liked to have done that too. I hope I have given my children the most important “Tool” the Bible…for following the ancient paths God requires.

I now have thirteen grandchildren and I “raise” them in my mind but I need to “lay” them at Jesus’ feet. They are precious in His sight.

Kim M September 15, 2010 - 12:16 pm

Southern mothers like to joke about their parenting…. Or maybe was it Jeff Foxworthy that said:

“You pull that TV screen on your head and you won’t do it again.” While that is a funny joke, it makes a great analogy about sin.

Sin can also kill. Or it can mame you enough to where you can never recover or spend your entire life trying to heal.

Most children are not mature enough to exercise proper discernment. That is my job as a parent.

Hurray for mothers who take protecting their children seriously.

Charity September 15, 2010 - 1:21 pm

It’s amazing…the things that God can show us in our everyday living, if our hearts are tuned to Him. I know that I have missed so many things He was trying to reveal to me, because my mind and heart were too busy listening to the noise of life, and not the still, small voice.

Thank you for sharing Kelly.

Miracle Quelle September 15, 2010 - 3:14 pm

I absolutely agree with the sin analogy, but I think there is something to be said for letting children experience some non-sin-related things “the hard way”, experiencing a small amount of pain, to learn from the experience and hopefully not lead to a larger amount of pain later. Or just to learn to make their own choices. We cannot protect our children from all pain, nor should we, as pain is how God purifies our hearts. For example, my one year old consistently tries to dive off the couch head-first onto the hard-wood floors. So I decided to let him fall a little bit, not enough to seriously hurt him, but enough to show him that he can’t dive off the courch head-first. I believe in letting my children take risks, like climbing trees, where they might get hurt, but empowering them to make their own decisions. The worst that a jalapeno chip might do is require a drink of water. And, who knows, maybe she’ll like jalapenos! 😉

Don’t turn your back. Just don’t. : September 15, 2010 - 5:11 pm

[…] Kelly said yesterday: There is some truth in that, but it’s missing a lot. […]

iarepilotswife September 15, 2010 - 7:46 pm

I love the comment about letting children take risks at times. I tell my boys, “be sure to hold on tight to those branches cause if you fall outa that tree you’ll likely get hurt!” There is no sin if they fall, but they learn better about the consquence of taking risks, none-the-less.
I think this is especially important for boys!

However, risk taking isn’t the same thing as sinning, though they often go hand-in-hand. When my 3 year old burned his fingertips yesterday it was the result of direct defiance. Yes, he learned the hard way but it was the sin of disobedience that caused the pain. We told him not to touch something, warning him that it was hot, and he immediately touched it anyway. (his fingers are fine now, by-the-way)
I think the point of Kelly’s post wasn’t necessarily about jalapenos. I assume that story was just an opening to a bigger idea. I think the post was more about protecting our children while we train them away from sin, instead of just letting them sin and learn the hard way.

Correct me if I’m wrong! 😉

Word Warrior September 15, 2010 - 7:51 pm

“I think the point of Kelly’s post wasn’t necessarily about jalapenos. I assume that story was just an opening to a bigger idea.”

By George, I think you’ve got it! 😉

Jennifer September 16, 2010 - 4:10 pm

“These will burn you, baby”

Boy, will they ever! I just finished the second half of my club-and-jalapeno sub. Yipers! Love it.

You know, I was surprised when I learned that spicy foods are an acquired taste. And no, I don’t just mean personal taste; what surprised me was hearing that people are not naturally born liking hot and spicy things; we learn to like them as we get older. And this, Kelly, is similar to what you said: not only is it important to keep kids away from harmful things, but there are some good things, like hot foods, that kids aren’t meant to know about until later in life. When they experience them too early, they get badly burned.

Beth September 16, 2010 - 10:20 pm

Kelly, this was a good reminder as to why we need to remain steadfast. By the way, I also came to love jalapenos while I was pregnant with #6.
I trust you’re doing well.
Much love,


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