Please enjoy Kathleen Fischer’s insightful thoughts about efforts in mothering our teens on this week’s Table Talk. Check out “Guest Blogs” for a link to her web site and other posts.

As I read one of Kay’s recent posts, two things snagged my attention. The first had to do with eye rolling which began when mom inquired about middle school homework. The second snag came when Kay wrote about doing way too much for her kids.

Those observations reminded me of driving a car with a manual transmission. You know the kind… with a clutch. You may also remember when you learned to drive one, ease out on the clutch as you ease onto the accelerator. Hiccup! Hiccup… and the car lurched forward. You felt you’d never get it smoothly. Sometimes, especially in traffic or under pressure (like when your mom let you give your pals a ride home from school and everyone was watching), you’d kill it again and again, lurching forward only to stall out completely! So, raising kids is a little like that. Bear with me, please.

As our kids grow, our job is to ease out of the responsibilities as they ease into them. As my momma used to say, “A good mother’s job is to put herself out of a job!” And, like that clutch and accelerator, we need to expect a few hiccups. They don’t always get it right; we don’t always get it right. Even when things go great, kids get the flu. The school year ends and schedules go a little crazy. Those darn other kids don’t like our kid as much as they should! Still it’s important to keep in mind that our job is for them to be able to do “the job”, whatever that might be.

At the risk of putting too sharp a point on this, in the work I do I am fortunate to work with moms at every location on the educational/financial/vocational scale. I also hear about and work with quite a few dads. I’d like to share that I almost never hear about a dad dabbling in his kid’s life. And I’m sad to report that I often hear about mom’s messing in their kid’s biz. Again, at the risk of hate mail, the more capable, well-educated, highly professional a mom is, it’s been my observation, the harder it is for her to get out of her kid’s life. . . to back off on that clutch and let her little accelerator press on! She’s just so darn good at organizing, systematizing, prioritizing, setting behavioral objectives, time lines, budgets, ad nauseam! Alas, the more we do it, the less our darling kids do. And they’ve just got to, or they don’t get better at it.

Along the same lines, I love the story of a dear friend of mine, let’s call her “Annie” to protect her innocence. Annie was planning to move her family to the Park Cities because the schools and neighborhoods are excellent. (For those of you who may not know, Annie’s assessment was correct.) But which of the four elementary schools was the MOST excellent? , Annie pondered. So, in her usual thorough, methodical manner, she made appointments to interview each elementary school principal. Armed with a list of pertinent questions, Annie set out. On the last interview, with a grand, seasoned educator named Dr. Louis Powers, Annie inquired, “In this wealthy community, do you think that affluence poses a serious problem for the children?” Dr. Powers considered her question carefully. “No,” he said at last. “I don’t think that is the main issue for kids here.”

Quick to notice, Annie pursued his lead, “So what do you think is the main issue?”

“Well, ” Dr. Powers began, “you know, first graders usually have first grade-sized problems. But that’s okay because they have first grade-sized problem solving skills. As they work through the problems, they grow and by second grade, when second grade-sized problems come up, they’re able… then third grade problems… on to sixth grade ones and high school ones…you see what I mean. But in this community, often when a first grader has a problem his mom or dad solves it for him. When he gets to second grade, he doesn’t know how to solve those very well, no experience, if you see what I mean. Then by fourth…trouble. By middle school, he might even run from problems. I wonder why we’re surprised in high school when so many kids seem to have absolutely no idea how to tackle the rather complicated challenges which come their way. No, Annie, I don’t think that affluence is the main issue here. I believe if I could change one thing, it would be to let kids work through their own problems, come up with their own solutions, and grow along the way.”

So back to the two things which originally caught my attention: eye rolling about middle school homework and Kay’s comment about doing too much for our kids. It makes sense that Kay would intuit that she needs to back off on that clutch. But what might seem not to fit is the eye rolling. How does that work into this topic?

I think Dr. Powers was onto something bigger… not only do kids have the ability to grow into their own solutions, but by middle school they actually want to be taking charge of their own lives. Now, we might question that when we see evidence of their not taking hold very effectively (how about that topic in another blog?). But what if we considered that eye rolling as a harbinger, sort of like the first green blade of grass through the winter snow? (okay, so that might be a little too poetic!) But “harbinger” as in, “this is my developmental imperative. I feel cramped when you ask about my work, my responsibility.” If we don’t take the clue and ease off that clutch, by high school the eye roll reminds us of sweet days gone by, comparatively speaking.

What if. . . ? What if we assumed that our kids can handle the work they are assigned? What if we assumed that their teachers’ jobs are to help guide them, that the teachers actually have hundreds of experiences with seven years olds or fifteen year olds (while we have only…how many?). What if we assumed our kid’s grow in response to expectation? Of course he doesn’t know how to do eighth grade work in September of eighth grade. But how about by spring? And what if, what if our greatest job is to express our confidence that he or she will be able to learn to do what’s necessary, be able to grow to meet the challenge, whether it’s algebra or not having someone save a seat at the lunch table? Surprisingly, as we ease back on that clutch, with a few hiccups, our little accelerators may just zip right off!

{Kathleen M. Fischer, longtime Dallas resident and mother of three, is a registered nurse with a master’s degree. In a career spanning more than thirty-five years, she has worked in public health settings; taught in public school and at the university level; and presented professional educational seminars. Kathleen continues to be a popular speaker in corporate, professional, church and community settings, often presenting topics from her recent book,Bringing Our Boys Through the Second Decade. Please visit her website ( to purchase a book or learn more about Kathleen.}

Thanks Kathleen! … and thanks girls for walking the road with me.

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