You know when you read something that has you enthralled from beginning to end? And as you’re reading, you’re realising that you’re absorbing something very important, something that might change the way you think or the way you do things?
I came across an article this week that had that effect on me. ‘Raising Successful Children‘, an op-ed by psychologist and best-selling author Dr Madeline Levine, appeared in the New York Times. Here is an excerpt:
“The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.
“The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality. If you treat your walking toddler as if she can’t walk, you diminish her confidence and distort reality. Ditto nightly ‘reviews’ of homework, repetitive phone calls to ‘just check if you’re O.K.’ and ‘editing’ (read: writing) your child’s college application essay.
“Once your child is capable of doing something, congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on. Continued, unnecessary intervention makes your child feel bad about himself (if he’s young) or angry at you (if he’s a teenager).”
Dr Levine examines the qualities of ‘authoritative’ parenting, which hits the ‘sweet spot’ that lies somewhere between helicopter parenting and permissive parenting. This article is quite brilliant, and I recommend every parent reads it.
But it also challenges me.
- I still make my 14-year-old’s school lunch, because she would walk out the door with nothing if I didn’t. I am not sure what, or how, she eats at school if she doesn’t have money.
- I still vacuum her bedroom and clean surfaces. I am so sick of nagging her to clean up her room so that we can actually see the floor and desk, that I don’t have it in me to then go for gold and get her to complete the job.
- I wash and dry her clothes. Because I do everybody’s washing around here.
- I micro-manage her homework a bit. She needs to be ridden or it won’t get done. I would love to wipe my hands of it and let her learn a life lesson, but I fear it would take several semesters of bad results before she woke up to what’s expected of her and I’m not prepared to sacrifice a year and a half of her schooling.
So these are all things she could do for herself, but instead I do them for her, for all the reasons I’ve given.
What do you do for your kids, that they could do for themselves? Do you fight against hovering like a helicopter parent? Are you the permissive type? Or do you hit the “sweet spot”?