Not helping your child can be the hardest part of being a parent

Not helping your child can be the hardest part of being a parent

The good folks at ChicagoNow are hosting blogapalooza tonight!  Tonight's topic on which bloggers have one hour to write and publish: a time we helped someone. When thinking about this from the perspective of a tween parent, because that's what we do here at Tween Us, I kept thinking that one of the hardest parts of parenting a tween is when a parent decides not to help his/her child.

Teaching our children to stand on their own two feet and handle situations independently is one of the ultimate goals of parenting. That often means, however, that parents must step back, not hold a tween's hand or tell them exactly what to do. It's odd that not helping kids in the short term can be what is of most benefit to them in the long term, but by letting kids assume responsibility for themselves, parents help kids build confidence as they realize that they are smart, strong and capable.

Refusing to help can teach them that and numerous lessons. Just today, I consciously decided not to help my child several times.

  • She left her lunch box at home. I thought about running it up to school, but did not. She figure lunch out on her own.
  • My tween practiced piano while I fixed dinner. She struggled with one part of a song and I wanted to offer to help her. I opened my mouth, and then I shut it. I said nothing. She made some progress but didn't completely figure those tricky measures out before practice time was up. She said she'd work on it tomorrow.
  • She's struggling with an aspect of a project and talked to her teacher about it today. I could have emailed the teacher, but I did not. I want my girl to learn to be her own advocate. She said she was a bit nervous talking to the teacher but the conversation went well and she felt much better about the situation.

These are not big choices, I realize. Would I have liked to know that my kid had her lunch, reminded her about the B flat in that piano music and spared her the anxiety that came with talking with her teacher? Yes.  Would I like to sweep in and make everything okay? Yes. Would that have helped her in the long run? Absolutely not.

Do I think that helicopter parenting is the way to go? No.

This reminds me of one of my favorite pieces of parenting advice, which comes from a 150 year-old animated green sea turtle named Crush. In Finding Nemo, he advises Marlin, Nemo's uptight dad, "Kill the motor, dude."  By not immediately rescuing Squirt from a spot of trouble, Crush permits his son to problem solve on his own and have an experience that Squirt describes as "totally awesome!"

But that doesn't mean that it is easy to know when exactly I should kill the parenting motor or rev it up.  I want her to struggle enough to learn the life lessons and build her resilience, but I don't want her to be miserable, either. There are times when it is clear that helping is the way to go, but those are far fewer than the times when I have an internal debate of do I/don't I.

One of my compromises with myself is reminding her "I'm here if you need me." I'd like her to know that she has back up, if she needs it, and if she doesn't, that's absolutely great, too.

You can see all the blogapalooza posts here. Check out the work of the amazing ChicagoNow bloggers whom I am fortunate to call colleagues!

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Filed under: Parenting

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