Those children who have learned to conquer their problems are more secure than those who have never faced them. Our task as parents, therefore, is not to eliminate every challenge for our children; it is to serve as a confident ally to help them through.
~Dr. James Dobson, "Hide or Seek," p. 79
I read the above this morning and it reminded me of a lengthy class I took while teaching in The Woodlands. The class was called "Developing Capable People" and those of us taking the training met several Fridays for three hours at our school while a substitute taught our class. That is how strongly our principal felt about this concept. We all received a book, which I still own today and had Mr. K read, too (although he already felt that way), entitled, "Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World." We were also given a cute t-shirt that says "I AM Capable" with stick-figure kids on it. I was single at the time and had no children, so it was very easy for me to grasp the concept that was being taught and apply it in the classroom and to silently criticize the parents who did everything for their children. The whole pretext of the program was to allow children to do things on their own, such as making lunches or completing lengthy school projects and let them learn from their mistakes. For example, a child who accidentally leaves his/her coat at home will be sure to remember it the next time if mom or dad doesn't run it up to the school and the child has to suffer through recess without the jacket. The same goes with homework, lunches, etc. The authors of this book and program(Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelson) show how parents and educators can "teach children to be responsible and self-reliant, not through fear and intimidation, but through the maturity of feeling accountable to one's own commitments (inner-directed behavior)."
Now that I am a mother of three elementary school-aged children, I sometimes find myself wanting to be like those parents I used to criticize for doing everything for their children. I often have to bight my tongue to refrain myself from doing that. As a result, Andrew's phone number and address will not be in this year's student directory because HE did not turn the form in on time. And Katie might not get school pictures because SHE left her order form in her desk too long. They are disappointed, but guess what? I can almost guarantee that won't happen next time for either one of them. I'm proud of the teachers they have, too. They expect the kids to be responsible and if they aren't, there are consequences. For example, one of the kids had their homework in their backpack, not in their binder, and when it was time to turn it in the teacher didn't allow kids to get it from their backpacks- the work should be in their binder. So the kids who didn't have their homework where it belonged missed half of recess. And my poor child had spent hours on the homework that wasn't accepted. Part of me wanted to march up to the school and demand a conference with the teacher, but I let it go. Hopefully, next time they'll remember to put the homework where it belongs. This is how it works!
I believe this "conditioning" works as children hit the teen-age years, also (at least I'm hoping). Parents should not enable their children or bail them out of trouble all the time. How would they ever learn and grow? Hopefully when I get to that stage, I'll have the tenacity to step back and let my kids learn from their mistakes. This definitely doesn't come easy for this mother, but with Mr. K's help, I hope to stand strong.