Sunday, April 14, 2013

Parenting Stuff Idea 3- Let Your Kids Do Hard Stuff

Safe Routes Partnership
It occurred to me this week at a piano recital that we parents frequently try to rescue our kids from difficult things. Not only big difficult things, like that science fair project you stay up all night with, but little things such as sitting through the entire concert, instead of taking them home early. My son was playing in a recital on Friday night and he was third of 15 or so performers. My daughter, itching to get home and call her friends, asked me a few times if we could just leave after he played. I toyed with the idea, because I wouldn't have minded getting home earlier, too, but as I thought it over, I decided it would be good for her to hear some new piano pieces, and to support her fellow students, and even though it might be hard, she's not a toddler anymore, and it would be good for her to sit still for an hour and behave.

I know, for some of you a decision like that would have been a no-brainer, but it wasn't for me. Depending on the venue and the event, we've been known to sneak out before the end of things in the past-- we are very busy and sometimes have multiple events scheduled at once, so it has happened. Also, it's not an unreasonable request. It was a recital, not a concert, and it was very casual, but staying through the performances was the classy thing to do, regardless. So I'm glad we stayed.

This did get me thinking about other difficult things we don't allow our children to do, because they whine at us or talk us into letting them off the hook. Maybe before doing our kids' homework for them or making that phone call for them, or whatever the "hard" thing is, we should stop ourselves and think. Is it their responsibility? Will they learn something valuable from this? (My daughter, hopefully, learned a little bit about being a good audience member, respecting her fellow performers, and a standard of expectation when attending a concert). Will it benefit them now or in the future if they push through the difficult stuff to accomplish this for themselves? 

I tried and couldn't come up with any examples of when it would benefit our children more to have the hard stuff done for them, than to do it themselves, except situations that would put them in danger if adult help wasn't there. Seriously. It's good for us to do difficult things.

For example, I was telling my daughter the other day that I never once got a ride to elementary school. It didn't matter that for a few years I carried a violin case almost as long as I was tall (I was a shortie), and the weather wasn't a factor. My parents simply didn't have an extra car, nor the inclination to drive us to school. It wasn't a big deal. We didn't melt in the rain or become kid-sicles in the snow. In fact, it was kind of fun and good for our health to walk in all weather, I believe. I have made my kids walk or ride bikes on and off, though not as much as I probably should. I confess, I drive my daughter, because she's the last child in elementary school, and her safety trumps all effort at helping her learn life lessons.

I also walked every day of junior high, and when I was halfway through with High School, my family moved and I didn't want to switch schools, so I rode the city bus every day. This required me to get up at 5:30, or so, every morning, get ready and be out the door by 6:30 to catch a 7:00 bus, a half-hour walk away, and ride it for 30 or so minutes to my school. I never had a car. I had no one I could car pool with, so I did what I had to do. 

Now, I don't tell that to toot my own horn, but to illustrate that doing tough things makes us stronger. I really believe that I was ready to go out into the world and get a job at 16 and to go on to college and adult life alone, in large part because I learned independence and physical stamina (really, it was a long walk to the bus stop) from this experience. And I learned that I could do anything I put my mind to.

If you don't allow your child to do hard things, there is a fair-to-sure chance they will reach adulthood and have learned an underlying message that they "can't" do hard things; that someone has to help them; that they need to be rescued. Trust me, we don't want adult children who can't take care of themselves. 

I'm going to be more conscious of this as we go through the next couple of weeks. I'm grateful I had that experience at the piano recital, so I would realize I might be letting my kids off too easily.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I used to walk uphill both ways in the snow with a grand piano on my back. Have a look at this: