Written by Melissa Grubb, Head of School
|Melissa Grubb, Head of School|
Most parents are wonderfully supportive of their children. Many, in an earnest effort to do all the right things, attempt to remove all bumps in the road for their children believing this paves the road to success. It does not. Please stop.
I don’t mean stop supporting them, but I do mean stop rescuing them from minor anxieties and “bumps” such as forgotten items, not getting the lead role in the play, not getting a party invitation that was hoped for (feel free to continue this list in your head). Our visceral response as parents to a child’s distress, regardless of cause, is to “save” them. We are fortunate that very few challenges for them are life threatening. Most dilemmas are invaluable learning opportunities – if we can manage our own emotions long enough to let our children learn from them.
No one said parenting was easy. Barring imminent danger, take the opportunity to coach children (in age appropriate ways) on how to solve their own problems while assuring them that you support their efforts. It’s hard. It takes longer than solving it yourself – but you’ll be doing it when they turn 40 if you don’t.
The end game is to raise independent, self-sufficient, well-educated and compassionate adults who can problem solve without texting you first. They can’t learn to recover from a “bump” if we’ve repeatedly “swooped and saved.” The discomfort we are frequently trying to prevent is not theirs, but ours while watching this important process. We rightfully childproof our homes when our children are little. Have you considered drama-proofing your home for your preteen? It’s just as important. There’s no such thing as childproof or drama-proof, but it shouldn’t stop us from trying.
Let’s take, for example, the lunch drama. “Sally” forgets her lunch. Again. (Substitute whatever the issue is at your home here.) She calls home expecting either a delivery from you, or permission to call Jimmy Johns. You feel sorry for her, hear stress in her voice, and imagine her looking pale and gaunt when you pick her up after school. Somewhere deep inside you a primal voice tells you that good parenting is about, at the very least, feeding your young. Stop.
First of all, give us some credit and realize that we will let no one starve here. The bigger picture involves learning accountability for whose responsibility it is to get lunch to school (it should be Sally’s if she’s 6 or older), allowing Sally to actually come up with her own solution - “Does someone have an extra yogurt?” and a natural consequence that will likely result in fewer forgotten lunches and, therefore, less drama. Most importantly, Sally gets the message that you believe she’s savvy enough to solve her problem. She doesn’t need “saving”. Repeatedly coming to the rescue is sending your child the message that you don’t think he or she can function without you. They may not get it right every time, but they can’t get better without practice.
I’m not suggesting a sudden change in your behavior – some fair warning needs to happen. In our home we had the Rule of 3. Human error was expected and not considered a crime. You got three “saves” a year, no questions asked. Perfection is not the goal; responsibility is. It works for being on time, too, by the way. I was bequeathed an alarm clock in the first grade. My mother, a kindergarten teacher, told me she was done waiting on me. I was to be on time. I was not a believer until she left me standing in the driveway wailing as she drove off one morning. As she rounded the corner from her trip around the block, I got in the car and said not one word. No more morning drama.
|Melissa and her mother, Mary Lynn Martin|
I recently had a conversation with a mother who was frantically racing in the building. I asked if everything was OK expecting to hear about a car accident or a seriously ill loved one. She was there to deliver spelling homework to lower school child. I had a chat with “homework rescue mom” and learned a lot. She was, as I anticipated, wanting to save her child from any consequences of a forgotten assignment - but I was stunned to learn that she thought the teacher would judge her and think she was a “bad mom” if she didn’t bring it in. Quite the contrary – you will be heralded, “super mom/dad” if you can muster up the strength to resist the siren call of a child in the midst of a solvable, non-threatening struggle. Your part is to set up support systems at home to provide structure to prevent such things, if at all possible (drama-proofing). You’re then off the hook.
You have our permission to let your child solve the small stuff. We will support your efforts 100%. You’ll get an “A+” and your children will learn important life lessons in a safe environment with wonderful teachers who care about them.