Watching GMA run a story on Helicopter Moms doing way too much for their children reminded me of a powerful message shared in my last parent/faculty coffee at school. The head of school said this “Anything you do for your children that they can do for themselves is a mistake.”
I thought of the daily mistakes I make in my home. Tying Rain’s shoes so they don’t unlace every day at school, packing up Shaya’s homework folder so he doesn’t get an “Ooooops, You Forgot It” notice, washing out my teenager’s lunch box so it’s fresh for her in the am, driving 20 miles to school when my 12 yr old forgets her gym clothes….my list goes on and on.
Parents and faculty discussed what is enough and what is too much and actually handicapping our kids. When they forget their sweatshirt, let them go to school without it; when they forget their lunch, let them go hungry; when they forget their homework assignment, let them miss the grade. This seems a bit harsh, but it brought me back to the tough love my father raised me with; he did next to NOTHING for me intentionally to make me learn to fend for myself. It wasn’t a nurturing approach, but he raised me to be VERY responsible.
My kids start at age 6 and range up to 14 so I canNOT treat them all the same. But what I can do is remind them more and do less for them. If I keep tying Rain’s shoes every day and double knotting them, she’ll never figure out how to tie her own tight bow that doesn’t unravel in 2 minutes. If I don’t drive to school one day WITHOUT my slowest and always late child, she may never learn to get up early and manage her time better. If I don’t run out of the house after Shaya on a cold morning with his coat, he may freeze, but hopefully he’ll remember it the next day.
Seriously with 4 kids, the tasks are never ending. I’m exhausted doing it all and ready for some tough love to teach them and help them (and certainly help myself too).
Yesterday my daughter called me to bring her a forgotten school theme costume, then her gym clothes, then her gym shoes, then her cracked cell phone that needed fixing. Rain called me from school sick so I had to do a 180 to rush back & get her, I got a speeding ticket on the way (my bad) and then realized Shaya’s karate bag was incomplete so he couldn’t join class. I drove back home once again to get it for him, then realized….what-the-hell-am-I-doing?!? If I don’t teach him to put his stuff in order or sit out in karate, he NEVER will do it. I told Shaya that this was the last time. He’s only 6 so obviously I need to wash and return his stuff and be sure his bag is complete with supplies, but I need him to keep track of where he’s dropping his dirty stuff.
This morning I found his dirty karate Gi crudely folded on the base of the stairs so I would see it to pack it for him. Bingo I thought, it worked. Then I watched him head out to carpool with no sweatshirt. I wanted to run after him, but it wasn’t super cold so I didn’t, in hopes that tomorrow he’ll remember to grab it.
I told my teenager that I’m driving away for school at 7am sharp and if she’s running late she’s getting left at home. I haven’t had the heart to actually leave her at home yet, but I made my threat loud and clear and sure enough this am, she was the 1st one in the truck. Ahhhhh Nazi Mom technique is actually working.
WE can do EVERYTHING for our kids when time allows, or we can do a little less and give them more. I’m trying a similar approach in the kitchen too. Teaching my kids to get involved with packing their lunches because I’m sick of them coming home full and rotten! (The lunch boxes, not my kids).
I tried a home-made trail mix game with them that is both nutritious and fun.
HOME-MADE TRAIL MIX
Take 5-8 small bowls and fill them with healthy-ish snacks that your kids like so they can design a snack bag that is a “sure thing”. We are a nut-free school which is a huge drag, but I get it and try to find other sources of protein.
I poured dried apricots, dried cherries, popcorn, a medley of cereals, marshmallows, pretzels, cut up granola bars, Pirate Booty, etc. – into small bowls. Then I gave my kids their own container so they can scoop out whatever they want and design their own snack. I pack it with a hard boiled egg that my kids like to peel at school and it stays warm, and often a frozen yogurt tube that thaws just in time for lunch.
My kids love this and I knew these baggies would come home empty.
P.S. – Halloween candy is everywhere and balance is key for the next few months. I make my kids eat their fruit, veggies and protein or NO treats! No exceptions. They may even eat healthier over the holidays because there is so much bribing ammunition. I keep it tight too. “If you don’t want what I’ve prepared for dinner, then don’t eat, and NO dessert. The good news is that you won’t starve. Oh, and I love you :)” I use this line a lot. My son stares at me now for a second than starts eating…. I’m telling you, tough love works!!!!!