Monday, August 13, 2012

the hardest thing

she loves it most when we let her go

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I came across this New York Times article on Danielle's blog entitled "Raising Successful Children." It should be noted here that "success" does not equal wealth. Never have I ever aspired to be "rich" in my own life, so I will not force that aspiration on Norah or any other children I may have. The only thing I aspire for my children is that they grow to be happy, healthy followers of Jesus. Everything else is not in my hands, but God's.

But, I digress.

This article was extremely interesting to read. The writer puts into words some similar thoughts I have about raising children. For some reason these days parents take on a "helicopter form" with their children, having to do everything for them and hovering over every move they make. Don't get me wrong, my daughter is a complete klutz so I have a tendency to "hover" over her too for fear of her killing herself if I'm not there to catch her  if  when she falls. But the writer explains that a helicopter parent is more inclined to try and control every part of their child's life. Not just prevent accidents.

The writer says, "The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child."


This is exactly it. This is exactly the way it should be. We see it all the time: Moms carrying their toddlers who can walk, feeding their toddlers who can use a fork, doing their preschoolers homework who can write, tying their preschoolers shoes who can lace, and so on and so on. While they're young it doesn't seem so bad but the problem is that it becomes habit for both the parents AND the child. If you were used to having everything done for you your whole life why should you expect anything else as you get older? It should be said that I am guilty of this as well. Sometimes I carry Norah just because it's easier. Not all the time, but probably more than I should. Sometimes I cave and I feed her her dinner because she's taking too long and I'm ready to leave the table. I know that she can walk and eat yet I do it for her anyway. Do I think I am a helicopter parent? Not exactly. But I still do things for her that she is more than capable of doing herself. Children are able to do so much more than we give them credit for.

It is the hardest thing to watch your child try to do something and fail. Now, this sounds overly dramatic since my daughter is not even two yet but it's true for any parent at any age. I watched Norah try to crawl, stand, and then walk while another mom watched her preschooler on the soccer field while yet another watched her teenager graduate high school and go off to college. We all just want our kids to be "successful" so we think that if we help do it for them then they will be happy. However, as the writer so perfectly puts it, "Once your child is capable of doing something, congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on. Continued, unnecessary intervention makes your child feel bad about himself (if he’s young) or angry at you (if he’s a teenager)." They have to get it wrong before they can get it right, right? We know this and we apply it to our own lives, so why don't we allow our children to fail? To grow? To REALLY succeed?

Any parent these days can tell you that competition is a growing issue. I think it's ridiculous; babies are just that, babies. They are all different. One walks before another but talks after another, etc. They all meet their milestones at their own time. I could go on and on about this but I'll save that for another post. But moms and dads are SO competitive anyway. "My daughter can walk at 5 months" "Well, mine is skipping elementary school and going straight to middle school" "Oh, but MINE is getting her doctorate. She's five!" It's a shame. We are more concerned with how our children's successes/failures make us look as parents than we are concerned with the actual success/failure! "It is the inability to maintain parental boundaries that most damages child development. When we do things for our children out of our own needs rather than theirs, it forces them to circumvent the most critical task of childhood: to develop a robust sense of self."  Being involved in your child's life is not a bad thing, so long as there are obvious differences between their life and yours. When you start living vicariously through your child, then there is a problem.

This article was both refreshing and challenging. While I agree with everything the writer said, it also opened my eyes to my own parenting style. It made me take a step back and look at the way I parent from another perspective. I realize now that I tend to do things for Norah that I know she can do herself. Again, not all the time, but probably more than I should. With that said, she IS still a toddler and needs my help more often than not. But I try to encourage her as much as I can. "You can do it!" and "let me see you try!" are phrases often spoken around here. I will always be there to guide her but I will not 'pick her up' every time she falters.

As far as "overparenting" goes, if I think Norah is receptive to an activity (like when she learned her colors) I'll encourage her, but if I think she isn't fully ready for something (like potty training) I will wait. "If pushing, direction, motivation and reward always come from the outside, the child never has the opportunity to craft an inside." Growing up I felt constantly pushed into activities, clubs, AP classes, etc. that I wasn't truly interested in. I don't think I turned out to be a complete disaster but school wasn't fun for me for that reason (among others; but this was a big one). It also took me a really long time to "find myself" and figure out "who I am." I don't want my own children to feel the same way I did towards education (or sports, college majors, activities, etc). I want my children to be who they are, not some version of who I want them to be. 

This parenting stuff... is the hardest thing.


  1. Loved this. I will be checking out that article a little later when my children are not climbing all over my feet. :)

    1. haha yea i had to wait to read it after my daughter went to bed ;)