It's so hard to see your child fail at something when you know that you could easily wave your magic wand and make everything all right again. It's sucks to watch them flounder in a situation and to want nothing more than to step in and help them succeed, knowing full well that this will do more harm than good in the long run. So I have decided that it's time to stop enabling my children quite so much. From the minor things to the major things, these are some of the times in my house when I am going to back off and give the kids a chance to figure it out themselves:
1. When they leave their tablet at one per cent overnight and it's not plugged into a charger. OK, I'm totally guilty of enabling here. I can't seem to avoid plugging it in for them. But you know what is the best way to teach them to plug it in themselves? Have them wake up to a dead tablet. So I have to stop.
2. When they leave their dirty laundry on the bathroom floor or their dirty cup on the coffee table. Sure, it's actually a whole lot easier just to pop it into the right spot for them. And if they are already in bed, leaving it there overnight could prove hard for me. But what exactly am I teaching them if I put it away for them all the time? I'm teaching them that it's OK to leave it there. And it's not.
3. Not making them "complete" the job. Unfortunately, I've gotten into the mode of "good enough" with my kids. For example, I kind of feel sorry for them on room-tidying day and so I stop them at "good enough." I conveniently avoid looking under the bed to where I'm sure some stuff has been shoved, because I want to make things easier for my kids. But easier doesn't necessarily mean better.
When the kids have a problem, I just want to either jump in and fix it for them, or at the very least tell them exactly what to do.
4. When the teacher sends me an email that one of my children isn't doing so well at something, I need to get off of my defensive high horse. My first instinct is to go into mama-bear protection mode. But thankfully, I sleep on it and see the light in the morning. The teacher is there to help and they aren't trying to beat my child down. They are just trying to help her succeed.
5. Automatically taking my child's side. It's hard not to, isn't it? In our heads, although we know our kids aren't perfect, we still feel affronted when anything friends-wise or school-wise doesn't go well for our little sweetpea. But they are quite capable of stirring the pot every now and again themselves, so going all Rambo in my head before hearing the whole story? I have to stop.
6. Thinking that everything my kids do is amazing. And telling them so. Some of us truly are better at some things than others. That's no different with our children. Giving them the highest praise for mediocre work only diminishes any compliments on what's truly amazing that they've done. So over-the-top gushing over every single thing they do? I need to stop.
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7. Fixing their problems for them. When the kids have a problem, I just want to either jump in and fix it for them, or at the very least tell them exactly what to do. But I'm starting to think that having them brainstorm how to solve the problem themselves might actually help them to take more ownership and grow both their confidence and problem-solving skills.
8. Tying their shoes or other jobs that get us out of the door more quickly. Certainly when they were younger, I was guilty of that, and now that they are older and we are in a hurry, sometimes it's still just faster if I pack their school bags for them. But they'll never learn to get ready quickly if they don't get to try.
9. Delivering things they forget to school. After you've reminded them four times to bring the sweater and they still don't grab it on the way out, I'm thinking that feeling the tiniest bit cold during recess might be just the thing to sharpen up their memories for the next day. If she forgets her science project at home and it's due that day, do I bring it to her? I know I really want to. But which lasts longer? A higher grade on the project or the life lesson of being responsible for your things?
It's so hard to stand back and watch our kids fail, to watch things that we could make easy for them tend towards the harder side. It's difficult to watch them flounder when it would be such a simple fix involving a parent figure swooping in and taking over. And enabling. But it's time for me to inch away, and take a step or two back. It's time to maybe turn the rotors on the parenting helicopter down a notch or two. And let them fail. And fail again. And possibly fail again. And eventually... succeed.
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