So much going on in the news… can’t help but share this one. I’m sure you’ll gasp as I did at the story leading the piece. But are any of us too far off that sweet mom? Thinking she was helping her kid?
When we cringe at stats concerning parental involvement in the hiring process of their kid (according to a Michigan State survey: 1/2 are involved by directly obtaining information on employers, 1/4 go so far as to negotiate salary, 4% actually attend the interview), we secretly hope it won’t be us?!
Well, here’s the latest on Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail by Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic:
Thirteen years ago, when I was a relatively new teacher, stumbling around my classroom on wobbly legs, I had to call a students’ mother to inform her that I would be initiating disciplinary proceedings against her daughter for plagiarism, and that furthermore, her daughter would receive a zero for the plagiarized paper.
“You can’t do that. She didn’t do anything wrong,” the mother informed me, enraged.
“But she did. I was able to find entire paragraphs lifted off of web sites,” I stammered.
“No, I mean she didn’t do it. I did. I wrote her paper.”
I don’t remember what I said in response, but I’m fairly confident I had to take a moment to digest what I had just heard. And what would I do, anyway? Suspend the mother? Keep her in for lunch detention and make her write “I will not write my daughter’s papers using articles plagiarized from the Internet” one hundred times on the board? In all fairness, the mother submitted a defense: her daughter had been stressed out, and she did not want her to get sick or overwhelmed.
In the end, my student received a zero and I made sure she re-wrote the paper. Herself. Sure, I didn’t have the authority to discipline the student’s mother, but I have done so many times in my dreams.
While I am not sure what the mother gained from the experience, the daughter gained an understanding of consequences, and I gained a war story. I don’t even bother with the old reliables anymore: the mother who “helps” a bit too much with the child’s math homework, the father who builds the student’s science project. Please. Don’t waste my time.
The stories teachers exchange these days reveal a whole new level of overprotectiveness: parents who raise their children in a state of helplessness and powerlessness, children destined to an anxious adulthood, lacking the emotional resources they will need to cope with inevitable setback and failure…
There’s more, which is always worth the read. But most of all, I hope it’s puts some wind in your equipping, letting-them-stand-on-their-own, and letting-them-fall sails today. It’s worth it … on so many levels.
Thanks for walking the road with me.
Wow. Although this seems crazy to me, I am sure it seemed reasonable to that mom, at the time. Makes me think about what I am doing for my kids that seems reasonable to me…as I just picked up the dirty towels that were left on the bathroom floor. Conviction! : )
I just had an incident with my daughter’s teacher. The teacher sent home a note to all the parents that the reading homework includes writing 2 sentences about what your child read. My daughter only wanted to write (and repeatedly) “I liked the book.” I told her that didn’t count as a valid contribution. I emailed the teacher who told me (politely) to “back off” – homework shouldn’t be stressful or full of frustration. It’s an exercise. It really doesn’t matter what they write (although in the second half of the year, it would) she just wanted them to have the practice. I backed off. To this day, I do NOT even dare be in the same room as my daughter when she does her homework. And you know what? She does it, it’s correct, and a LOT quicker than with me standing over her. I’m not sure that’s a fail, but parents do need to “back off” and let their kids do their own work. If the child was “too stressed” to do homework, then skip a dance class or 4H project. Children shouldn’t be stressed, they should have fun, and learn in the process.
Thanks for referencing my piece! I really appreciate it. For what it’s worth, the mom was really nice and really did think she was doing the best thing for her daughter. I adore your blog and am honored to have been a part of it.
Thank you, Kay. Our children hate hearing the No word and parents seem to hate saying No. It’s so true that we do our children a terrible disservice if we don’t let them experience difficulties and outright failures (even if they’re “epic”).
I enjoyed your book. I am the mom of 4 kids ages 11, 9, 7, 5 and lately my husband has been trying to get me to see just how much I am doing for them. Your book solidified the fact that I need to back off and let them take responsibility. So, I am working on not being such an enabler. Recently my neighbor, who has a son who is a senior in H.S. and a daughter in Jr. High left very early in the morning for a road trip with her husband. The kids’ grandparents were to join up with them after school. At 8:25 am I received a text from the friend, asking me if her son’s car was still in the driveway. Perhaps I should have ignored the text to begin with, but I looked and replied, Yes, it was. She then asked me if I would go ring the doorbell to get him up for school! I was torn between enabling a young man who is going to have to get up next year at college without Mom and Dad and helping a concerned friend. So, I stalled, didn’t respond, and took a shower, etc. When I called her later she said she got another neighbor to do it! In some ways I judged her for not respecting my boundaries, but really couldn’t blame her because I struggle with the same issues–just with younger children. I pray that I take your advice and apply it now!
I read through the descriptions of a hundred books on parenting this weekend and decided to buy yours. Our children are 2, 11 and 14 and my husband and I have been really struggling lately. I couldn’t even put words to exactly what the problems were but the description of your book and your Experiment nailed it. I am only half-way through the book (working, hockey teams, boy scouts, girl scouts, dr appts, you know the drill) but am looking at everything differently. My husband and I agreed to start the Experiment last night and have been very surprised by the first 24 hours. Our 11-year old son was THRILLED to have a jar of $30 in his room and sees this is as a great way to earn money. Our 14-year old daughter was SHOCKED that we would ask such a thing! She screamed and stomped and had a record setting temper tantrum. When she came up from her room for hockey practice 45-minutes later she mumbled under her breath “I cleaned my room”. I asked her to repeat herself…she hasn’t really cleaned her room since she moved into it 3 years ago. I checked her room and laundry was put away, clean sheets and blankets were on the bed and her floor was cleaned and vacuumed. She had another hockey practice before school this morning so on the way home from school I told her she could have a couple minute head start before I checked her room, she said she already made her bed (at 4:25 this morning!). Tonight as I sit here correcting papers she is cleaning off a desk she hasn’t seen the top of in 3 years. She just brought up a handful of things asking if she could cash a check she found from 2010. Obviously we have a LONG, LONG way to go but I am inspired by this small baby step that should have been taken years ago. I’m hoping it is not too late and the 1st 24-hours are a sign of things to come.