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I want to give my kids the world. Don't we all? I want them
to have the best of everything and everything I didn't have when I was growing
up. I want them to explore their interests and feel like they can do anything
they want to do in this life. I want to raise them to be happy, well-adjusted,
productive adults who give back to a world that has so much to give them.
But in order to raise wonderful human beings, sometimes I have to step back and let
them spread their wings and experience life on their own terms—which often
means falling on their faces and dealing with the consequences of their
choices. Here are a few instances where I've found it's OK to let my kids
handle life on their own:
If your kids are anything like mine, things can escalate from zero to 60 in the amount of time it takes to demolish a LEGO creation. It's OK to
let them sort it out their way. They love each other (and you know it, even if
it doesn't look like it at the moment) and just as quickly as things escalated,
they can de-escalate. I've seen my two boys go from "hating" each other to
rolling on the floor laughing together in the span of 15 minutes.
Intervening in their disagreements only delays the resolution. Let them resolve
it themselves and give them the tools to do so by modeling mature conflict
It's a hard, hard thing to stand back and bite my tongue when I know I could easily (and quickly) "fix" whatever situation my kids find themselves dealing with.
2. Playground tussles
Get enough kids on a playground and eventually there is bound to be an
argument. As tempting as it is to rush in and mediate before angry words turn
to punches, give your child a chance to deal with the conflict. He might
surprise you with his wordy eloquence—or simply his ability to walk away from a
fight. But it's important to draw the line at physical aggression. Let your
child know you expect him to deal with arguments with words only and that if he
finds himself in the midst of a physical altercation, it is OK to walk away and
find an adult.
3. Forgotten items for school
Whether it's the homework that was left on the kitchen counter that
will result in a zero on the assignment, or the hat and gloves that you told her
three times to put in her backpack that will mean she can't go outside during
recess, don't swoop in to save the day and make (yet another) trip to the
school to deliver a forgotten item. Yes, there will be consequences. That's the
point. Out of those consequences will come a new sense of responsibility (in
Under most circumstances, it's best to let your
partner and child sort out their own issues without interference from you.
Recognize that resolving disagreements is not only a healthy part of their
relationship, but also builds a stronger bond between them. And if you feel you need to
intervene or offer a different perspective, make sure you don't undermine your
partner in front of your child.
5. Relationships with other people
One of the hardest things for me to do is to
recognize my children are no longer helpless infants but autonomous creatures
with the ability to make some of their own choices. The temptation to mediate,
protect, navigate (and yes, control) their world often extends to their
relationships with other people—siblings, friends, teachers and even my
husband. But I know that every person they encounter in their life has
something to offer them that I cannot. Let your children develop appropriate
relationships without too much interference from you. Facilitate (and moderate,
where necessary) the interactions, but step back and let your child have a life
outside of you.
6. The thing that they knew they shouldn't have done, but
You told him not to leave his
truck outside or it would rust. He did and it did. You told her to wait until
her project had dried before she picked it up, but she didn't wait and now it's
in pieces on the floor. Whatever advice you've given that's been ignored, let
it go. This is how they learn. You don't need to say, "I told you so"—they
already know they should've listened to you. Let them deal with their
emotions, which can include anger toward you for not being more forceful in your
advice, and make it clear that while you're sympathetic, the consequence is of
their own making. And then offer to help them find their own solution.
I'll be honest, it's a hard, hard thing to stand back and
bite my tongue when I know I could easily (and quickly) "fix" whatever
situation my kids find themselves dealing with. But there are times when
letting them handle their own problems turns out to be a teachable moment for
both parent and child. Sometimes in the midst of the chaos I get a glimpse of
the wonderful human beings they're becoming and I know we're all on the right