Thursday, January 15, 2015

To help? Or not to help?

“We’re almost done with our research paper,” my sweet friend told me.

The pronouns she used jumped out at me. She was talking about the progress THEY were making on her son’s assignment. She and her husband are intensively involved with homework for all of their children, which has resulted in near-perfect academic records.

The child she was talking about is in the same grade as my oldest. My daughter tells me that this young man takes home every single book each night and he’s visibly shaken whenever he doesn’t get an A on any given assignment.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important to help your children establish good study habits, provide ongoing encouragement, spot-check homework and dig in when the subject matter gets tough. Please know that this isn’t a case of sour grapes on my part. Neither he nor his parents flaunt his grades and he is genuinely a respectful, kind teenager. They are our friends.

Please know that I’m not judging this family, nor am I purporting to be an expert on parenting. However, I feel as though there comes a point when kids need to know that they can do it on their own. Otherwise, the child will come to rely on your intervention in ALL things and will believe that you think he can’t handle even the most basic tasks.

Ironically, I’ve also seen the exact opposite type of parental involvement when I spent a year giving classroom presentations in impoverished schools. It broke my heart to see kids who didn’t even have the physical basics, much less emotional leadership in their homes. I weep for these students and hope they have the strength to move beyond their situation.

So what is the answer? It’s different for every family. My husband and I try to take an approach that gives our kids the tools they need to succeed without smothering them. Neither one of them is a straight A student. And that’s okay.

There are times when they need extra help and we get them a tutor. Other times, we pow wow with their teachers to see how we can better support their education. And sometimes, we even let them fail. Yes, we even let them fail.

That’s because we’ve decided that we will do ANYthing for our kids, but we won’t do EVERYthing for them.

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