To be fair, my children can do a lot of amazing things. They are genuinely great kids. But they’d been getting a sweet free ride, especially in their home life. With me stepping in and doing for them—rarely, if ever, putting true .Responsibilities on their plate—this makes me ask, will my kids be ready for the real world?
Like many parents, I share the frustration of socks left on the living room floor, folded clean laundry thrown on the floor to never be put away, re-washing clothes that were never worn, dishes left in the sink, no help with dog poop duty, mowing the lawn, but yet they have no problem eating all the food in the house, enjoying a clean house, dinner made for them, a nice cut lawn and of course everything they want to do for the must part. My kids like many, hurt for nothing.
I’ve discovered in conversations with other parents, my frustration as a parent is not isolated. Raising independent kids is at a new level these days. Instead of teaching our children to view themselves as capable, we step in to do everything for them. We start when they’re still young, using safety as our lame excuse as we hover too much, then we continue “protecting” them, “If I don’t help him get As, how will he get into college?”. We pave a smooth pathway, compulsively clearing away each pebble of disappointment or difficulty before it can impede their progress. By the time they reach adolescence, they’re so used to being taken care of that they have no idea they’re missing out on discovering what they can do or who they can be.
Whatever happened to teaching, directing, and modeling rather than doing everything for our children?
Yet as a parent, I’m constantly surprised by the desire to take the driver’s seat for my kids. A desire to basically do everything for them. I can barely stop myself from stepping in, even though I know this doesn’t help them in the long run. Maybe it’s my need, to get things done quickly and efficiently, and to maintain order….So I think…. Whether it’s ordering for them at Wendy’s, making their beds, all but brushing their teeth, I’m surprised at the lengths to which I’ve gone to make life easy for my kids. At the end of the day, this all stresses me out and I am tired!
When I catch myself muttering under my breath, “I told them to pick this up,” and then proceeding not only to pick up their socks, towels, and put their clothes away, I also find myself organizing their closet while I’m at it. I’m solidifying my children’s expectation that someone will always be around to do their work for them. I also make it harder for them to put things away, since I’ve basically stolen the chance for them to organize their closets based on their own logic. When I step in, not only am I doing the work, but I’m inviting the countless whines of “where are my football pants?” It’s the same with cooking or sweeping or mopping or dog poop duty. I’m not sure any of these things have ever crossed their minds as tasks they might need to know how to do, or just to do because they live in our house too.
So here’s to seeing what can happen when we tell our kids, “I believe in you, and I’m going to prove it by putting you to work.” Sit down, kick back, pour a glass of wine and see how your kids react to a chore list. After all, one day they will be married and they will have to know how to be ready for the real world.