Thursday, August 18, 2016
Today I am grateful for problem solving. There was a post on Facebook this morning that really affected me. It was a sign that a principal put on the door of his school that said that if parents were dropping off a forgotten lunch, instrument, homework, etc. to stop, turn around and go back home because that day their child would learn how to problem solve. Brilliant. I love it.
When I was a building secretary at an elementary school there were some kids, even in sixth grade, who never even tried to be responsible for their lives because mom always came through anyway. That’s not unconditional love, it’s irresponsible. Children need to be accountable for themselves and it starts very young.
One mom, having brought her kids lunch every day for a week, said, “I don’t know what to do? He keeps forgetting it.” Duh! I asked her if she wanted my opinion and she said she did. “Don’t bring it,” I said. That woman looked at me like I had rocks in my head. “But it’s his lunch!” she said, incredulous. “Yes, it is. And he probably had breakfast and you can’t starve between breakfast and dinner and besides, they will give him something. . .a small sandwich or cereal. . . from the cafeteria. If you keep bringing it he will never learn to remember it himself.”
When I encounter some young people these days, not all, of course, but some, the thing I notice the most is that they don’t know how to figure it out when something doesn’t go as planned. They either throw up their hands in the air and give up entirely or they call mom or dad for a solution. Mom and/or dad are great resources, but they will not be there forever. What then?
There are many, many of you who are sending your kids off to school for the first time to kindergarten. . .or the last time as they enter college. Both can be traumatic. If you are sending your five-year-old out the door, be sure he/she understands their responsibility in school, even if you have to make a chart or list. Don’t take their responsibilities as your own. Don’t accept blame if they forget something. Yes, even if they are only five! Help them remember things, but if they don’t, let it be on them. I’m not saying abandon them entirely. . .just back off a little.
The same goes for school projects. Help a little, maybe, but don’t make it YOUR project. Their successes will be so much sweeter when they know they came by them alone and not with the safety net of mom or dad. Ask my very, very successful youngest grown son about this one. When he was in high school he informed me on a Sunday night that he needed to turn in a mounted bug collection the next day. “Really? You’ve got a problem then, don’t you?” I said. “Mom you gotta take me out to get poster board and stuff.” No I didn’t. It wasn’t my poor planning. I did nothing. He cleaned off a pizza box cardboard and ran through the yard with a flashlight trying to collect last-minute bugs. Did I mention he is extremely successful? It’s not a parents job to keep kids happy every minute, but rather to prepare them to live in the real world.
If you are sending a teen off to college for the first time, the inclination will be to check-in by texting, calling, or skyping with them every day, or asking that they do the same with you. I’ve noticed that especially some girls, call mom three times a day. Why? A far better way would be to have them try and figure something out themselves first and if they get stuck, call for advice. . .but be careful how much you give them at this age.
They want it but they don’t want it. On the big things they still need it because contrary to their opinion, they are not quite done cooking. But they’re getting close so back off as much as possible. . .even if it is difficult. Let them fail a little bit sometimes and the times they win will be that much sweeter. I used to tell my kids I do not want to be responsible for your failures, nor take credit for your successes. Both are yours alone.
I think when kids go to college they should be at least two hours away from home. That means it’s not a quick trip for laundry, meals, etc. for parents and kids. I also don’t think that they should come home until Thanksgiving. Seriously. They need the complete break to adjust and so do you. Go to see them once, on Parent’s Day and then back off. Now is the time in their lives when you not only don’t need to know everything they are up to. . .you don’t want to know. You’ll find out soon enough. Trust me on this one.
Children cannot learn to problem solve if no one ever lets them. Give them that gift and they will thank you for it later. I promise. Mine have.