“Dad, I got this from the librarian at school.” My second grade daughter said as she came up to me and handed me a notice about an overdue book about Jane Goodall. “Okay…where’s the book?” I replied. She didn’t know. After sending her to look a little more diligently a few times, she reported “I’ve looked everywhere and I still can’t find it.” We could have gone on a house wide scavenger hunt. I probably could have found the book for her….heck, I could have even more easily ordered a replacement on amazon and saved a couple bucks. Instead, I just said “Okay, well it says here it’ll cost $6 to replace it if you can’t find it so go to your piggy bank and get $6.” She gave me a questioning, slightly down-trodden look and then ran off to get her money. We haven’t started an allowance yet. This was birthday money. She put the money in the envelope, took it to school, and that was the end of the Jane Goodall book saga.
If we do everything for our child, how will they learn to do anything for themselves?
I could have gone off on a long series of lessons about taking better care of your things. The value of a dollar. Where to keep your library book so you don’t lose it. Or just don’t checkout library books if you can’t return them. Yada yada yada. I didn’t need to. The lesson played itself out. My attempt at a nonchalant response hopefully helped her to realize that this is just what happens when you don’t plan accordingly. Now, it might happen exactly the same way again next week….and the month after. The lesson will eventually stick. She’ll learn those lessons herself. She’ll see her dwindling piggy bank funds. She’ll figure out where to keep her library books and it’ll probably be a better place for her than I could chose. It will all happen eventually. My job as the parent is to sit back and wait for it to take and not rescue before it does.
3 ways to quit rescuing your child
- Let him make mistakes. If I were a teacher, I would get so sick of writing “100%” across every piece of homework. It’s obvious that the parents are checking (or just doing) their child’s homework and making sure they get it right. Can we just bring back the days when the parents didn’t do, let alone know about, the homework their child brought home? Our children are still young, so we have to set the scene for doing homework, but then we let them do everything they can on their own. If they don’t know what to do, we help them figure out the assignment or how to find the information they need to complete it. If they make a mistake, they’ll see it when their teacher hands them back the errors. If not, we are teaching them that if you don’t know the answer, someone will rescue you and do it for you.
- Support teachers’ red pens. Rather than justifying wrong answers or trying to provide an explanation for why they got the answer incorrect, just let the score stand. Don’t send an email about why Johnny put 545 when the answer was really 623 in an attempt to try to get partial credit based on his work. Instead, teach Johnny why he got it wrong (emphasizing that he did, in fact, get it wrong) and provide another opportunity for him to try to demonstrate that he now understands the concept.
- Just stay out of your child’s way. I promise, he can do it. Children have overcome wrong answers before. They’ve lost library books and then learned not to lose them for next time. There have been millions of kids that have gone before him and succeed with much less support at home and school than your child has. Show him that you believe in his abilities rather than showing him than his abilities must be double-checked. It’s a hard lesson for us as parents to learn that we have to allow our child to fail for them to grow.
A wrong answer, a failed test, a lost library book are all opportunities for your child to learn. Let them him experience those tough moments. Show him how to respond for next time.