I saw a post on Facebook today, and it was the headline for an article,”Please Keep Doing Things That Your Children Can Do For Themselves.” It’s a lovely article , and the gist is that kids grow up too fast so parents should cherish when they can do things for them.
I love the sentiment behind this article, and there are plenty of things I do for my kids occasionally that they can do for themselves. I sometimes fold and put away their clothes or clean their room. I’ve done Claire’s hair. I do these things for my kids as a treat and they in no way expect them.
However, my kids started doing their own things as soon as they could. Admittedly, some of this is because there are things I hate doing. My best example is laundry. They were eight and five when I started requiring them to do their laundry. Of course, I helped at first, but both of my kids have been able to do that task for years. It’s one of the many, non-material gifts that I have given them.
As a seventh grade teacher, I know that I impact kids. Yet the best part of me being older and wiser than I was in my youthful teaching days is that I have now been in the shoes of the seventh grade parent and I can see potential mistakes. I can also offer advice, and I think that is my best impact as a teacher — its on the parents. This is essential, I believe, because over my 25 year teaching career, I have seen kids become more and more dependent on their parents, for even the smallest tasks.
My big “catch phrase” of late to parents is that they need to let their kids figure things out. More specifically, I’m talking about grades and my speech goes something like this: absolutely no one but you cares about your child’s grades in seventh grade, so this is the time to focus on the skills he needs to develop to be successful when his grades do matter and you aren’t there to help.
The same is true socially. There is a fine line between effective parenting, supporting your child, and interfering/enabling. First of all, I won’t claim to be perfect on this. I’m not. But over the years, I think I’ve gotten better. I try to be very involved in my kids’ lives while letting them forge their own paths.
Over the past couple of years, the high school social scene has presented both trying and joyous times for my daughter. It was so different for my son — in this way, boys are easy. So as Claire has navigated the rough waters of changing friendships and “girl drama,” I’ve supported her. I’ve asked questions. I’ve tried to help her see other perspectives. I’ve given her advice. There have been times when she has been left out by a group, or even uninvited to an event [yes, UN-invited]. While part of me wanted to call the moms of the “offenders,” I refrained; this was something my daughter and her friends needed to handle. Instead, I coached my daughter on how to work through it. I reminded her that people aren’t perfect and oversights can be made. When you can, give the benefit of doubt. I taught her the difference between being civil to people and being friends with them, which is a huge lesson in being an adult. In less than two years I will be sending her to college where she will have to navigate these waters by herself. Now, she has practice in comporting herself with dignity.
Learning to face disappointment with grace is, I think, the best gift I could give either of my children. Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to go. Still, it’s hard watching my kids when they suffer. It’s hard not to step in and make it better. But sometimes, doing what is hard means doing what is right.