Letting our kids flounder and fail is a hard but necessary part of parenting. As a teacher, I’ve encountered my fair share of “fixers:” parents who want to save their child from the fight. Of course I’m not talking about a fight that leads to unsafe situations or harm; I’m talking about the kind of internal battle that builds fortitude and confidence.
As a mother of three, I appreciate the innate desire to fix. But what I’ve learned through parenting my own and certainly in the classroom is that natural consequences are often the best teachers.
Simply put: there comes a time when fixing and controlling everything for our kids harms more than helps. And can we just admit our “fixes” are usually nothing more than knee-jerk reactions?! We don’t like the loss of control and it hurts to see our kid upset, so we fly off the handle. No thinking, just acting, and unfortunately modeling the epitome of how we don’t want our kids to behave. Boooo.
As if keeping our own big feelings in check while watching our kids roll with the punches isn’t hard enough, then we get to the Reaping What They Sow chapter of parenting. The temptation to fix is never greater than when your child comes face-to-face with the bitter consequences of their own mistake. GAH! It’s so, so hard. What’s more is that they’ll make many of these bad decisions when out from under our watchful eye (at a friend’s house, on social media, in school) and with other people, which will then tempt us to place blame anywhere but on our parenting or our child. And they will make many, many bad decisions because they’re kids. Look at all the dumb things parents do, and we’re the adults! But it’s in how we handle all those questionable choices that makes the difference.
Quiz time! When your kid does or says something morally suspect, you should:
A. Find an adult you deem just as culpable as your child and give them a good tongue lashing. Bonus points if you start with HOW DARE YOU…
B. Move. Higher property taxes equal better quality people, people who won’t negatively influence your perfect offspring. It’s science.
C. Take a deep breath and fight the urge to fix. Admit you don’t know all the details and in an effort to learn more, have a civilized conversation with your child, then with whoever else was involved.
No one’s perfect, but if you consistently resemble A or B, you should probably get used to profusely apologizing and/or dedicating your life’s work to salvaging relationships. I’ve had students’ parents come at my neck over things they perceived to be unfair or confusing. After we chat, though, they calm down (sometimes even apologize!), and acknowledge their own or their child’s role in the big picture. Had these parents chosen C, we could’ve avoided the nonsense and arrived at a solution much sooner.
That’s kind of the point of my latest piece for Bored Teachers: Parents, Before We Blame Teachers, Let’s Look at Ourselves. There are always other, better options than flying off the handle and subsequently backtracking. The article is about properly addressing school-related issues with your kids’ teachers, but also serves as a nice reminder to be a decent to one another. “Life is an echo. What you send out, comes back…”