Focus on Training, Not Rescuing

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It seems like parents today are too afraid to let their children fail in any way. This includes everything from letting them figure out what to do for food if they forget their lunch to letting them suffer the consequences of whatever penalties are incurred for forgetting a homework assignment. I think many parents believe that if a child is late in turning in even one assignment, it lessens their chances of getting into a good college.

What else could be the motivation for this panic that prompts parents to rescue their children on a minute-by-minute basis? Over time, we have heard about the “helicopter parent” who constantly hovers over every aspect of their child’s life and doesn’t allow them to make a move without their involvement. Or the “snowplow parent” who removes every potential obstacle so their child can move forward in any endeavor without ever facing a challenge. And lastly, the “tiger parent” who roars about high expectations and strict rules. What do all of these styles have in common? They don’t ever allow a child to fail.

If you think about a time of growth in your life, I bet that it somehow revolves around a mistake or failure. And while it didn’t feel great at the time, you eventually recognized the role that disappointment played in how you matured and changed the way you make decisions. By continually rescuing our children, we are denying them that same opportunity.

The best way to implement this no-nonsense style of parenting is to give your children fair warning. Explain to them why you are doing it and how it will benefit them in the long run. The first time it happens and you actually have to say no to their request to bring them a forgotten item, don’t do it with glee, but with empathy. You will feel guilty, but keep reminding yourself that you are doing it for their benefit. I guarantee you that after the first couple of times they forget and live through the consequences, they will forget less frequently.

Don’t think of this approach as punishing your child, but as training them. Our responsibility as parents is not to provide them with a problem-free life, but to teach them how to respond when problems arise.