As we move into the next year, there will be more challenges. Hopefully, this will include a resumption of an in-person school year for our students. As we transition, once again, there will be challenges to overcome even though it might mean the resumption of things we consider to be “normal.” At school, it can be expected that the reigns might tighten on assignment due dates, in class discussions – better known as participation, and general responsibilities.
As a mom of three young adult men who did some early helicoptering and then backed off, I implore you to not be a fixer for your children. If you do this or became accustomed to doing it this last year, as you were “around” for their online classes. I beg you to back off now. If you don’t, there will certainly be some “side effects” as they age, and one of those side effects is a dependency on you to “fix” things.
The tough part of being a fixer is that one doesn’t recognize it unless you can step back and be objective about your own behavior. Have you ever asked a teacher to “relook” at your child’s paper if the grade wasn’t what you thought it should be? I’ve never done this but know people who have. Have you run your kid’s lunch over to school when it was forgotten at home? Yup. Or, how about a homework assignment left on their bed? Or, have you made an excuse when your child has forgotten a book, or instrument, or gym shoes or, or, or… The list can become long and exponentially grow if you continue to “fix” things for your child. It should be a very short list.
I’ve been a parent long enough (almost 27 years) to see the fixing get worse. I believe that it’s commonplace now. Part of the reason I think it has gotten worse is that kids are no longer encouraged to learn from their own mistakes; they are expected to be perfect, both in school and at home. The plain fact is that none of us are perfect, least of whom are children. They NEED mistake making. We all do. Making an error is an important way to learn.
I feel that in the “need to accept everyone” and “every action” good or bad – we forget that some learning takes place in feeling humiliated or guilty in the making of a mistake. We all learn in NOT being perfect. The student that does something legally wrong at school is sheltered by going out the back door. Why are we sheltering from the feelings of guilt and humiliation, the result of irresponsibility or reckless behavior? We need to allow mistakes from our children, but we also need to allow them to take responsibility for the mistake and acknowledge they made it. Being slid out the side door is not the answer. We need to let mistakes happen, and let them be seen, even if we know they will temporarily make the child feel bad. “Fixing” or avoiding failure for our children is not helpful to them or to ourselves. One truly can learn from the mistakes of others. If those mistakes are hidden or sheltered, then no one learns anything.
There’s been a lot written on this topic in the last ten to fifteen years. Both helicoptering and snowplowing parenting styles start out by simply wanting to “help” your child. But they soon blossom into something else. There is concern when parents do these behaviors and also when they stop. Stopping is hard. The fear your child will fail is real. One second guesses themselves….should I help or not?! Is helping the same as fixing? I know, I’ve been there. And, the answer is not always. It is good to help your child – I am not advocating they be thrown to the lions. But, consider the outcome. If they forget their lunch, they’ll figure it out – right?! Worst case scenario, they come home awfully hungry and cranky. But, they might not forget their lunch again!
If there is a way to help without fixing the problem – go for it. For example, I was happy to lend my car to my 21-year-old last month. His car had died on the highway. HE called the garage. HE arranged the tow. HE submitted the insurance information. HE picked up the car from the garage. And, HE brought me my car back. (IF you are wondering about payment – I know – you’re thinking but she paid! I didn’t. It was fully covered under warranty.) Now, if we had rushed to him and arranged the “fixing” of the vehicle, he would have missed out on all that learning. My car, as a loaner, helped him get to his new job and his father and I survived nicely on one during the ten days out son’s car got fixed. That, I consider helping, not fixing. And, I was very proud of his ability to handle the situation as an adult. He’ll be able to handle it again in the future if needed, I am sure.
I am just asking parents, mom’s especially, to not fix EVERYthing for your child.
They learn, as do we all, from mistakes.