As a teacher, I see parents carrying their children’s backpacks to the bus stop all too frequently. I also witness more parents driving their kids to school because the child “woke up too late” and the parents do not want them to experience the natural consequences of missing the bus. Why are parents doing so much for their children nowadays? Is it because they have a hard time saying “no” when their child asks them for something? Is it simply easier to do it themselves versus nag their child to get it done? Or do parents feel like they have failed if they don’t provide things that would make their child happy? Most importantly, if you notice yourself doing too much for your child, what steps can you take to change that?
Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves. Loving your kids does not mean doing everything for them—some of the greatest learning experiences and feelings of pride come from doing things yourself. Allowing a child to figure out how to do something independently gives them a feeling of self-confidence. This achievement can lead to the realization that they are capable of doing other things successfully as well. Now, a child may not complete the task correctly on the first, second, or even third try. By being a source of encouragement and coaching your child forward, you can teach them how to become resilient and persevere through failure.
Allow children to experience the natural consequences of their actions. I’ve seen parents involved in every aspect of their child’s schoolwork, from helping with homework and different projects to making sure each is done correctly. Parents take control of organizing their child’s binder from start-to-finish, then they go through the child’s backpack and make sure everything is ready for the next day. These are all great intentions and useful up to a certain point in elementary school. There comes a time, however, when a child needs to assume responsibility, make choices and suffer the natural consequences for their actions (or lack thereof).
Let’s say a child forgets to complete a homework assignment or loses it. The parent has a choice in how to respond. If the parent “rescues” the child by completing the assignment or by making excuses for the child, this takes away from any opportunities the child has to learn from mistakes and to become an independent decision maker. If the parent steps back and allows natural consequences to occur instead, it can provide a great learning opportunity and life lesson.
Remind them only once. You probably don’t like to spend your time being a nag, and your child probably doesn’t like hearing you constantly nag. So what’s the solution? Clearly state to a child what it is you would like done and the deadline for completion. If you see that the child delays starting the task, provide one friendly reminder to him/her and include the consequence for not completing the request.
Don’t make excuses for your child and allow him/her to accept responsibility. It is important for children to make up their own minds and accept responsibility. If they are seeking constant feedback and reassurance from others, they will have a difficult time finding their own strength and sense of self-confidence.
One big mistake I’ve seen parents make is excusing their child for not completing homework or something else. Saying, “We didn’t remember to remind them” or “It was a long night last night and my child was very tired” are enabling factors that children pick up on. It is important to realize that these “excuses” make kids believe the parents are responsible for the child’s work. This is simply not true!
As a child gets older, the stakes get higher and responsibilities grow. Forgetting a homework assignment may result in getting a zero, but being irresponsible at other tasks in the “real world” such as being late to work, driving on the road, or handling machinery could result in more serious repercussions. Teaching a child accountability early on in life is paramount to creating a responsible adult.
About Dr. Doug Haddad
Douglas Haddad, M.S., C.N., Ph.D. (aka “Dr. Doug”) is a public school teacher in Connecticut and has worked with children in a variety of capacities as a coach, mentor, tutor, nutritionist, and inspirational speaker. He is the author of the child guidance book Save Your Kids…Now! and co-author of a health and wellness book Top Ten Tips For Tip Top Shape. He regularly speaks, writes, and blogs about self-empowering topics for parents and children including his Success Strategies for Regaining Control over Your Life...NOW! and his Happiness Formula for Achieving Anything. Visit his website at www.doughaddad.com.