Friday, December 07, 2012

FMB: Letting Kids Fail

(A true five minute one because I MUST go pick the kiddo up from preschool!)

For me, and I suspect for many others, the hardest single thing about parenting (aside from not losing my temper when my kids do ill-advised things like running into traffic) is letting go just before they are ready for me to do so.  (Traffic is not included in this category.  Hands are held while crossing the street.)

The person-at-shul-I-wish-I-liked, I think I dislike because she completely fails to LET GO.  Example: last time she was at my house, we were making hamantaschen, her kid was maybe ten feet away, and every time he started whining mommy mommmmmy she ran over to him.  (He was, at the time, TWO.)  I was thinking, WTF?  He's fine, he's surrounded by toys, and oh, he can walk into the kitchen. 

Tatoe, for example, finally learned to stand up by himself last month.  He did this because, although he could not stand up on his own, we stopped helping him.  He screamed a lot, and then he figured it out.  Bug still has a hard time taking off shirts, but I don't help him.  They need to fail at it, and get upset, so they can get good enough to be independent.  These are small things, but I remember some disasters in my life that my parents surely saw coming.  So I let my kids fall down some, and I don't help them.

(Metaphorically.  When they actually fall down and cry, I do pick them up.)

(This is also a long way to explain why I let Bug decide to go to school in short sleeves and no coat today. It's above freezing!  He won't get frostbite!) 


  1. I agree entirely, though I struggle with it. I taught Bun Bun to say "help" because I got sick of her shrieking at me, and now I feel like I'm violating a social contract if she asks and I don't help, but I am well aware that she doesn't really need it and and and... Then there's the way other people judge you when you do or don't offer aid. Perhaps in her own home your not-friend would have ignored her kid, but didn't want to get the stink eye from you for letting him whine. And you had to be brave to send him to school with no coat, knowing some mother somewhere is going to be all WHERE'S YOUR COAT YOU POOR BABY!

    1. Alas, I have seen her in her own home, and she doesn't ignore it. And yes, I'm sure someone was judging my coatless tot. I told the teacher he was Learning A Lesson. Besides, about the help, remember that whole delayed-gratification-breeds-success thing? Just think, every time you say "in a minute" you're setting her up for a lifetime of success.

  2. Anonymous2:35 PM

    I have the same problem as bunny but I'm delighted to see there's hope. I taught RR to say "I need help please" because I could not. abide. the. whining. Now I hate to not help because I don't want her to stop asking. Granted, she doesn't gratuitously ask so my resolve hasn't been tested. That said, we have friends who allow their children's whining for help to dictate their lives and it's about the most grating thing to see (and hear). I'm glad I'm not alone!

    1. I repeat "You can do it!" a lot. Also my kid is a lot older than yours (four in March!), so I expect more independence. I'm told whining maxes out around age 4; I'm looking forward to an eventual decrease. I just told my kid I can't hear whiny voices for, oh, the HUNDREDTH TIME TODAY. Ahem. I need a large drink about now.

  3. "I will be happy to help you tape your ripped homework as soon as I've taken a shower."
    "Yes, I will read to you when my coffee time is done. Go ahead and check if there is still coffee in my cup. Yes? Then it's still coffee time."
    "I know you're having a tantrum, but I don't understand shrieking so you'll have to tell me with words. How do you feel? Why are you upset? No, stop with the whining, I only understand normal voices."

    I do still struggle with letting my children fail (especially when C1 argues with me over his homework and I know he's just going to have to redo it tomorrow), but I actively try not to help too much. Also, I'm lazy, and I'd prefer if they did most things themselves. Patrick says C1 isn't quite old enough to do his own laundry... Maybe I'll try next year when he turns 6.

    1. Yep, sounds just like that in my house too... as well you know. Though I'm a bit short on patience this week and smacked Bug on the hand this morning (very bad mama-ing). Gaaaaaaaaah.

      He's totally old enough to MOSTLY do it! I taught Bug to sort laundry with me. Of course, Tatoe is usually flinging it into the air while we sort, but still. One scoop of this, push this button, here we go. :)

  4. Anonymous12:55 PM

    My company recently hosted a workshop on work/life balance by this woman (

    It was really useful in general, but she said something that really struck me.

    She said, "You aren't raising children, you are raising adults. Act like it."

    I think that's what really irks me most about parenting differences. My husband and I are raising our kids to be independent, capable, self-sufficient adults. That means they are as independent, capable, and self-sufficient as their age allows them to be.

    I feel like lots of other people are just keeping their children, children- dependent and addled by learned helplessness.


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