Story Time

So it’s Friday night and I’m at home thinking about you and your kids while my husband is out with his buddies.

 So sad.  Please stop laughing. 

 Anyway …. I was thinking about last week’s 0-3 Parent Enrichment and I wanted to share something with all our parents that came up during our discussion.  The topic was “Developing Responsibility and Self-Help Skills in Children”.  But before I get into that, let me tell you a story.

 Or two.

OK.  Fine.  It’s three stories.

Some time ago, I fired a teacher.  She was terrible.  Lasted maybe 3 months.  The same day, I received a call from HER MOTHER who let me know (using a few choice words) that she didn’t like how I handled the situation.  The teacher was in her early forties.

I also employed an employee whose father would call me to tell me his daughter would be late because he forgot to wake her up.  Or was late driving her to work.  Or that she had homework and stayed up late.  She was in her twenties.

I also had NUMEROUS mothers who had called me to ask if we’re hiring.  Because they wanted to send their kid's resume.  Or if we’re accepting volunteers.  Because their (sixteen or seventeen or twenty-year-old) son/daughter needed service hours.

How does this happen?  How do parents get to this point?  I can assure you that we would never find (even among the hardened enablers) parents who think they would be calling their child’s boss in thirty years. 

I am (almost) certain YOU would NEVER do that.

Right?!

Right.

Hmmm.

OK. So let’s just agree we’re talking about parent’s at another school. Who call the teacher to let her know that their son would like her to tell Susan that she is hurting his feelings.  Who also call grandma to let her know he doesn’t like chicken.  Or vegetables.  Or that he was misbehaving because another child was mean to him.  Or had too much sugar.  Or gluten.  Or fell while walking to school.  But it was most definitely not his fault.  And would you please make sure to let the assistant know that she’s been a bit impatient with him?  And we’re probably going to miss school today because it’s raining.  And he stayed up late.  Because he didn’t want to go to bed.  Plus, it’s raining and he doesn’t like to go out in the rain.    

Just this once.

Those parents.

They don’t realize it’s a slippery slope.

They reason, “I’ll stop when he’s a bit older.  He’s just a child.  It’ll be easier when he can understand why or how.”  Except it won’t be easier later on.  It will only get harder.  As these parents continue to intervene, the opportunities for their son to build skills to manage challenges are passing him by.  And with the loss of opportunities goes the loss of his skills.  He doesn’t get any better at solving problems and facing challenges. He gets older, but the problems just get harder and the consequences more dire.

Maria Montessori said, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  This doesn’t just mean zipping one’s own coat.  It’s all challenges and problems.  Because once the parents start doing for their son what he can do for himself, it becomes a tragic feedback loop.  The less the son does for himself, the less the parents think he is able to do.  The less the parents think he is able to do, the less he thinks he is able to do.  The less he thinks he is able, the more convincing he becomes to the parents that he is not. 

Ohh. Ehhmm.  Geee.

I’m feeling anxious just writing about it.  Good thing I have wine.   

One more story.  I swear.

Mark, my husband (the one who’s out with his buddies) was talking to one of our parents at a party.  The Father said something like, “So…. Johnny.  He’s beating up on some of the kids in the class.  Including my daughter.”  At which point Mark began to panic and said, “Ummmm…. You might want to talk to Betty about that.”   To which the Father replied, “Nah.  Not necessary.  She (the child) can handle it.  I’ll let her know when she can’t.”  Or something like that.  Mark can’t recall the story exactly because he had a few drinks at that point.  What I find remarkable (and refreshing) about this story is that the father thought his daughter (the size of a pea) was capable of handling the situation.  Because if it’s not Johnny now, it might be Susan in high school.  Or her future bitchy boss (who can’t fire incompetent employees tactfully, apparently.  Damn Bitchy Bosses.)  He realizes there will be many more obstacles on his daughter’s road of life.  He can prepare the road by removing the big boulders, the medium stones, and even the tiny little pebbles.  Or he can prepare his daughter by letting her face as many challenges as he can stand.  This isn’t easy parenting, but it is good parenting.  And though it won’t always feel very good for him, it will make his daughter’s life in adulthood a whole lot easier. 

Because this is how the parents at MFC role.

Right?!

Right.

And if you’re that father and that’s not what you meant, please humor me and don’t argue.

James Flores