WT 075: When Do I Let Them Fail And When Do I Step In?
There's a fine line in between helping your child, and doing too much for them. Sometimes, they need to learn the hard lessons in life (with a safety net to catch them) but sometimes, they need us to step in. So where's that line? Karen discusses it on today's episode.
Question 1: Karen, my son is in elementary school and not adjusting to homework. When he gets home, all he wants to do is play. When we sit down together and go through it all, it’s fine. But if I ask him to do it on his own, he doesn’t or will wait until bed time to tell me he has something he needs help with. I want him to learn the consequences for his actions, but don’t want to set him up for failure. Any tips?
Karen's Answer: I think it’s good to let your children get outside and play when they first get home from school. They have been sitting at a desk all day and they may need to clear their heads when they get home. But, after an hour or so, I would call them inside and encourage them to get their homework done and then they can continue to play. If your son is in K-2nd grade, I think it’s fine to help him. Once 3rd grade hits, I would let him “own” his homework and leave it in his court. Help him in tight spots, but only when you see he has really tried. The best way to teach him consequences is to let it play out. If he gets to school and doesn’t have his homework there should be natural consequences from his teacher. You aren’t setting him up for failure, just teaching him how “life” works.
Question 2: My 17-year-old daughter is involved in every kind of extracurricular and is a perfectionist. I am worried she is going to burn herself out. There are times when she’s overbooked or overloaded and gets stressed and irritable. She hasn’t asked me for my help, but when is it time to pull the mom card out and step in to make some decisions on her schedule and mandate some rest?
Karen's Answer: You are still the mom, even though your daughter is 17 and if you see your daughter stressing herself out you should for sure pull the mom card. Just tell her, why you are concerned and you want her to live a balanced life.
Boundaries are not in a high schooler’s vocabulary. They will push themselves to every limit possible. So, as a mom, I think we should “help” teach them the signs to look for when they need to pump the breaks, slow down, and re-charge. Kelsey was super involved, and in theater, which took a ton of her time, and it was draining with long practices. There were weekends where I told her she just needed to stay home and rest. Taylor was also very involved in high school, and his senior year he came to Greg and I and said he didn’t want to play golf because he was so involved with year book, president of his class, and other activities at school, so we told him that was fine, and that he was wise in knowing and placing boundaries in his life.
Question 3: Karen, my daughter is a sophomore in college and pretty directionless on what she wants to do or major in. I’m not upset about it, but I just don’t want her to graduate and struggle to get a job. She’s also self-conscious that her roommates are getting internships in their field and she’s still figuring it out. I have wondered if putting the pressure on her and making her commit to a major will help her, or backfire in my face? Or, do I let her manage it on her own?
Karen's Answer: Personally, I would encourage her to just pick a major, and not to worry about what she will do for the rest of her life. Seriously, how many people at age 20 know what they want to do forever? I would encourage her to pick a major that is broad and she can do a lot of things with, like business, or public relations, marketing, etc.
Kelsey started in theater and ended up with a history major, Emily switched majors three times, Taylor switched his first semester and loved what he changed to, and Abby started off in education and quickly changed to marketing. My dad told me, “Just get a degree, that is the main thing, just get a degree.” So, that is sort of the philosophy I used with my children.
I would take different assessments to see what jobs your temperament/personality would do best. If your daughter goes to her college career center it is also a great resource for students trying to decide. Stay positive with your daughter and encourage her to do some self inspection on what makes her happy. I think with a little research on her part, she will find what works for her.
Question 4: My 5-year-old son is in a little lying phase. It’s small things like when I ask him if he brushed his teeth or his hair and he tells me yes, but the answer is obviously no. When I tell him I think he’s lying he insists he’s not. Do I punish him and supervise morning habits? (Which, I don’t want to do long-term) Or, let him go to school looking and smelling a mess? Which, I also don’t want to do.
Karen's Answer: Personally, I think the lying is the most important thing to address, and I would not let it go. If it means you have to supervise his morning habits, I would do that until he is mature and honest enough to do it on his own. I would for sure tell him I know he is not telling the truth and the consequence is you will be monitoring him until you can trust him.
Taylor did not want to brush his hair. He didn’t lie about it, he straight up told me he didn’t do it. I ended up letting it go because for me at the time it wasn’t worth the fight. We compromised and he would brush his hair on Sundays for me. He quickly grew out of it, and I learned to keep his hair short during this phase.
Address the lying. It will only grow as the child grows.
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