Imagine the scene: a 3rd grade boy excitedly approaches his friends as they are lined up outside school. They start talking about the latest fad – rubber band bracelets. His mother joins them and displays the collection she made as her son visibly cringes. The bell rings and the kids enter the building, including mom. As the kids jabber about all things kids jabber about, mom joins in, sometimes correcting the other children and reminding them to hang up their coats, put their boots under the bench instead of the middle of the hallway, etc. She opens her son’s backpack as he stands before the classroom door, handing him his water bottle, snack, planner and folders. She hangs up his coat, carefully tucking the gloves into the hat and the hat into the sleeve so he will have them for recess. Later in the day, she emails the boy’s teacher to ask why her son didn’t bring home his spelling list (that he was supposed to pick up himself and put into his take-home folder three days before).
As a teacher, I have seen many variations of this scene reenacted several times a day, either in my classroom, or in the hallway at my colleagues’ classroom doors. A mother upset because another girl won’t play with her daughter at recess, a boy who forgot his homework that his dad ran home to retrieve, a mother bringing her child to school early and waiting with her in the lobby of the school every morning so she won’t get cold. As educators, teachers strive to create independent learners, children who are enabled to take charge of the things that they can take charge of; be it finding a friend to play with, writing homework down in their planner, or waiting with classmates for school to begin.
As a parent, however, it was a different story. I struggled with the same things that the mom above struggled with; watching a child grow up and not needing me as much anymore. I can’t blame her for struggling to stay involved in her son’s life. It’s very tough to cut the ties that bind and watch your child become independent, but it is for their benefit that we must do so. Dependent children feel very little control over their lives as they grow older, and exhibit little initiative or drive to conquer difficult tasks. It is the triumph over adversity that creates strength and resiliency, ultimately building a child’s character. It is the child who expects things to be easy because adults made them easy, who shuts down when things become difficult. Overcoming obstacles builds stronger character than avoiding them. Help your children help themselves.