This I Believe
Children Must Be Allowed Take Responsibility for Themselves
“But, mom,” my 4th grader whined, “you were supposed to tell me I needed my recorder today. My whole class lost points because you forgot to tell me to take my recorder this morning!” “Whoa,” I said to myself and to him. “I already ‘did’ 4th grade, buddy. It’s not my job to remember 4th grade stuff.” The consequences he experienced from forgetting his recorder reminded him of the importance of getting his recorder to school on the correct day. He became much more aware of his responsibility for his schedule, at least for the next little while.
A friend of mine is constantly running to save her kids from their lack of responsibility. “Mom, I forgot my instrument.” “Mom, I forgot my lunch.” “Mom, I left my homework on the kitchen table.” As soon as they tell her what they forgot, she gathers it in her hands and runs to school with it to rescue them from the pain of consequences. When I confronted my friend about how she rescues her children, she said she doesn’t want her children to feel bad or left out.
My children’s school has a color schedule, so the specials are not always the same day of the week. I know moms who dutifully make themselves the keeper of the schedule. When do the library books go back? In this way their child is relieved of the terrible duty of remembering and also the consequence of not being able take a book out of the library because they did not return a book that week. Each one of my children at some point in their school years informed me that I wasn’t helping them remember to bring their books back and therefore they couldn’t bring new books home. I empathized with their plight and wondered out loud how their problem could be fixed. One or the other of them thought I could do a better job of remembering for them. I told them that while I was sad for their spot, I didn’t care enough about whether they got new library books or not to make it my job. It took only a few forgets for each of them before they took over and almost always remember on their own.
I believe that my kids need to experience the pain of consequences under my watch. If I rescue them now, who will continue to do that for them the rest of their lives? They need to learn to accept responsibility with grace. They need to learn how to move on from disappointment. If I protect them from most consequences, I am failing as a parent. My JOB as their parent must include teaching them this important piece of living: the importance of facing and living through the consequences that result from their actions. It is not my job to protect them from all pain and discomfort. Moments of greatest growth for children come through the pain of natural consequences and having to take responsibility for their actions.