One of the things that often frustrates me as a parent is when my kids don’t deal with situations I know they are capable of handling on their own.
But often this happens to us because in so many other situations, we have fixed the problem for them.
It’s also hard to see your kids upset, even when it’s kind of their own fault.
It can be a natural reaction to want to make them feel better. But the truth of the matter is our kids need to learn how to handle and work through disappointment because they will experience quite a bit of it throughout the course of their lives.
The next time you find yourself in one of these situations, instead of trying to make everything better, try saying this:
I have faith in you to handle this.
If you are used to fixing and lecturing and rescuing, there’s a good chance this will be a challenge for you.
And your kids very likely will be thrown for a loop.
What the hell? Why isn’t Mom fixing this???
But showing faith in your kids helps them learn to handle disappointment — it strengthens their disappointment muscles — and it helps them develop their problem solving skills.
Say you have a kid who has forgotten to bring their homework or their lunch or their instrument or their sneakers for gym more than once to school. Chances are, this is occurring consistently because you are solving the problem for him or her. You receive a call or a text from your kid asking you to bring this week’s forgotten item to school, and you do it.
You are fixing and rescuing.
And you are getting more and more annoyed, and your kid is getting more and more used to you solving the problem.
You can change this!
Sit down with your child (pick a calm time — not a time you are pissed that you just drove to school for the 27th time this year) and let him or her know that you will no longer be driving forgotten items to school.
There is a good chance your kid will nod and listen to you, but won’t really believe you.
There is also a good chance you get another phone call or text within the next week or so.
“Mom, I know you said you weren’t going to bring anything to school for me anymore, but just this one time, can you bring my lunch/homework/instrument? I PROMISE it won’t happen again.”
Instead of caving or lecturing, try this:
I can tell you are upset. I would be too if I forgot my lunch/saxophone/sneackers! I have faith in you to handle this. See you after school!
Whoa! What? Don’t bring lunch to your kid? He will STARVE!
Don’t bring your kid’s saxophone? She’ll get a zero!
Don’t bring in the math worksheet? His homework grade won’t be perfect!
This is where your kids develop resourcefulness. Or where they learn to be more responsible at home!
When they get home from school, you can help them. You can brainstorm ideas together of ways to avoid this situation in the future if they are having trouble coming up with strategies on their own.
- Would waking up five minutes earlier help? Or maybe going to bed a little earlier?
- Do they pack their lunches and backpacks the night before?
- Maybe making a checklist for themselves would help.
Some kids are naturally more organized than others. In my house, Number 4 struggles the most.
She is the classic gifted kid who is scattered, whose mind is constantly going a million miles an hour, who puts stuff down and then forgets where she puts it, and whose room can quickly and very easily become a complete disaster.
It is hard to say no to her. It is hard to hold her accountable sometimes because she’s a good kid and she works really hard and she’s pretty independent.
But it’s also frustrating and annoying. And if I consistently save her and make things better for her, nothing will change and I’ll get more and more frustrated and annoyed.
Just last week she forgot her lunch.
I usually give her a freebie. It’s the beginning of the school year and we are adjusting to new routines still. We live only a quarter mile from school and it was a nice day, so I walked her lunch down to her school.
After school, instead of lecturing her, we talked about what she needed to do in order to remember her lunch because she just had her freebie, so she wasn’t getting another one.
She didn’t need a lecture. She needed a solution. That night when I went in to say goodnight to her, she had her saxophone right next to her bed so she wouldn’t forget it with a big sign taped to it that said “Don’t forget your lunch!”
She got to school with her saxophone and her lunch.
Unfortunately, she forgot her stuff for cross country after school! And since cross country is a new thing for us, I had completely forgotten to remind her. I didn’t even know exactly what the schedule for practice was.
But Number 4 knew she had already cashed in on her freebie, so she didn’t even bother calling me.
Instead, she borrowed a pair of sneakers from her friend, and she just wore the clothes she had worn to school to run in.
She was resourceful. She solved the problem herself. She did the stuff that reassures me she’s gonna be able to deal with life when she is older and out on her own.
After school, we talked about what else she can do so that she remembers her cross country stuff on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Her organizational skills aren’t anywhere near perfect, but they (along with her problem solving muscles) are a little bit stronger today than they were the day before.
I know it’s hard to be firm and to let your kids suffer a little or be unprepared or disappointed.
But constantly worrying that your kids aren’t going to be okay if they don’t always have everything they need is even harder on you.
They will be okay.
Even when you stop rescuing them.
Especially when you stop rescuing them.