My Child’s Struggle
I’M BORED!! I FORGOT MY LUNCH… I NEED A RIDE! Sounds familiar, right? This was my everyday for many years, until one day I decided I had enough. I was spending my days running around for my kids, working to create their happiness, often times at the expense of my own.
I found I rarely had a free moment, even when they were at school, I was running to school to drop something off, making plans for them, signing them up for classes and picking something up they ‘forgot’ they needed for a project due the next day. As if this wasn’t enough, I was going to have to do help work on the project that night as well.
Taking a step back and looking around at some of my fellow parents, I made a consorted effort not to do what they were doing. These parents were tired and their kids were needy, it wasn’t a pretty combo. I didn’t want this for my kids OR MYSELF so I decided to make some changes in our lives.
HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD’S STRUGGLE
I know this sounds funny, but it’s really in everyone’s best interest. I found that the more my kids struggled the more they learned to fend for themselves. In turn, my life was easier, I had time to work and play. Every moment of my day didn’t depend on whether my child might need me for something. Here is what worked for me:
- MOM! I’M (WE’RE) BORED!– My response: I’m sorry to hear that, go find something to do. Believe me, this wasn’t easy at first and entailed a lot of whining but you know what? Over time, my kids learned how to keep themselves busy. I no longer felt the need to occupy every moment of their time AND they no longer expected me to! Just don’t give in and start making suggestions, otherwise they will always count on you to do so. (I am not saying that you shouldn’t spend time with your kids, just not every down moment)
- HI- IS THIS JOEY’S MOM? HE FORGOT HIS LUNCH… Bummer. He’s 12 (although same rule applied when he was 8), he should have remembered his lunch. I cannot drop everything to bring his lunch to school. I also cannot spend 30-60 minutes trying to find someone who will. He can eat a little bit of his friend’s lunch (they throw most of it in the garbage anyway) or he can wait until after school to grab a snack. He will survive and he (most likely) will not forget his lunch again anytime soon!
- I FORGOT MY HOMEWORK, BOOK COMPUTER, ETC!- Again, bummer. Yes, he will probably get yelled at, he might even get a detention Quiet Room, but this isn’t my problem. In life, if you miss a deadline there are consequences, and there won’t always be someone there to save you. Great lesson learned, the earlier the better.
- MY FRIEND/ BROTHER IS ANNOYING ME OR NOT BEING NICE– This is a tough one and you have to semi-get involved, just to be certain that your child isn’t truly being bullied. Assuming it is simply just a quarrel between friends or siblings- let them figure it out. At first this might require a little guidance (read: Hands Are Not For Hitting), but let them figure it out. Talk to them and listen to them, but ultimately, let them figure it out. They might make mistakes, but this is how they learn. I am sure you know people who cannot resolve problems with others, don’t let this be your child.
- I’M STARVING– You actually aren’t starving. However, if you are hungry, go find yourself a snack, or wait until we eat dinner. I cannot and will not drop everything I am doing to make you a mini-meal, pre or post dinner. I will have some healthy snacks available for you, simply open the fridge and enjoy. After 9pm as my mom used to say ‘kitchen’s closed’.
- WILL YOU DRIVE ME HOME OR TO A FRIENDS HOUSE, TO GOLF OR TO THE PARK? No, it’s a few blocks away or maybe a mile. Bundle up and walk. Don’t talk to strangers and don’t dally. While you are on your way, put your phone down and look around, we live in an interesting world. This might require you to take the walk with them several times, but overtime you will be glad you did, because now they can do it themselves without much complaining.
I know that to some parents this might seem harsh. However, it’s crucial for your own life to teach your children how to be their own person. We spend so much time complaining about how we don’t have time to do the things we enjoy, when really, we only have ourselves to blame. Allowing our children to make mistakes and to learn for themselves is difficult at first, but the stress of it all pays off. People will notice and comment on how your child is responsible, and you will see it too. I cannot remember the last time my kids (now 12 and 14) came to me to fix a problem. They generally try to solve them on their own.
A few more suggestions on simplifying your life by giving your child more responsibility… LET THEM:
- Pick out their clothes, they might not look perfect but it’s their style. They will figure it out.
- Pack their suitcase. Give them a general list, but let them pick out the contents.
- Make their lunch. (Double check to make sure it has some nutritional content)
- Find a carpool. Allow them to find their own ride, this way, when you CAN drive it’s appreciated rather than expected.
- Make a meal. They will need some assistance at first, but will love being involved.
- Don’t carry their coat around the mall or their backpack around the school.
- Make their own plans. You can call the other parent to verify, but teaching your child how to use the phone, with manners, will only serve them well in the long term and will give them some sense of control over their life.
- Do their own homework. In today’s world, this is tempting. Kids are expected to excel in every way, but, you are not truly helping them to get ahead. What will happen if they decide to go to away to college one day, will they be able to rely on their own skills…? Possibly not! Clean up the kitchen, or pay bills, stay close, but give them space.
Next time you are running around and find yourself grumbling about how little time you have to yourself, think back to this list. What responsibility can you give to your child that would take the onus off of you? Trust me, following these simple guidelines will simplify your life and make your kids better human beings in the process. “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Anne Frank