Have you ever found yourself telling your kids they can’t do something?  Sure, chances are they can’t fly.  You can’t allow them to play with a lion or a tiger (at least without getting hurt and you being arrested for child endangerment).  There are true physical and legal limitations.  But what about the other stuff?  What about things that you just don’t think they can do or you can’t do yourself?  Are you limiting them with your own limitations?

Recently I took the boys with a group of friends to Dave and Buster’s (which is a restaurant/bar/arcade – the kids skipped the bar part).  Within the arcade there are various games from driving simulators, flying simulators, guns, basketball shooting, skeeball – you name it, it is there.  And then there is the claw.  Yes, you know the claw.  The machine the aliens in Toy Story were in and in some ways worshiped.  You can almost hear the sucking sound from the claw as it pulls money out of your pocket when you get close to it.

For the group of boys we had a handful of cards for the arcade (part of their eat and play package).  I handed out cards and re-enforced with my boys not to waste all their time and credits (the cards do a great job of keeping you from realizing how much you are really spending in the arcade) on the claw- no one ever gets anything out of the claw.  I was eating my words within five minutes.

Dave and Busters has a normal size claw machine and then they have the Super Claw- a unit that is about the size of our downstairs bathroom with stuffed animals that are two to three feet tall.  One of the boys’ friends came strutting over with a bear that was nearly as tall as he was, one he had pulled out of the Super Claw.  I immediately knew we had a problem.  Now that one of the boys had won something it would draw them all to see possibilities in the claw.

The boy who won the first item was back at it with a crowd around him cheering him on.  In a few minutes he extracted another item.  I was dumbfounded!  After telling my sons that no one ever won anything from this credit sucking machine, their friend had pulled out two items in under fifteen minutes!

Before the night was through the first winner pulled out three toys – a stuffed bear, a two foot tall frog and an oversized boxing glove that was at least two feet when extended.  My youngest had some luck with the Super Claw too pulling out two items and a third boy got one himself.  We were in the arcade for about an hour and together they extracted six stuffed toys!!

So, what is the lesson here?  First and foremost, don’t stop believing in your kids.  Even though something may seem impossible to you, don’t limit them, let them try and see what they can do.  Granted, you may not want to find out what they can do in some things (like coming home with oversized frogs and bears) but don’t set those limitations.  Teach them to be free to explore their own limits.  To reach past common expectations and go for it.  In things other than the claw it will really pay off.

This attitude, to not be limited, will help them attain higher achievements in may parts of their life.  Would you limit them academically, telling them they are only a “C” student?  Would you limit them professionally, setting what they are going to do before they have a chance to try and figure out how far they can go on their own?  If you are reading this then I bet you wouldn’t but don’t forget that the spirit of challenging expectations and exceeding limits starts now and can start with fairly small things.

So think about it next time you pass along the “you can’t” message.  Stop yourself and limit the limitations.  Unless they are going to hurt themselves or someone else (and even sometimes you have to let them hurt themselves to learn), let them try.  Let them discover what they can do, can’t do and how far they can go.  They just might surprise you and more importantly, surprise themselves.