NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2018 63 I ’ve met a ton of amazing and inspiring parents in my 35+ years of working with families. The lengths that parents can go and their devotion to their children is amazing, deep and awe-inspiring. Parents will spare no expense and give it all when it comes to their children. Jumping in front of a bus? You bet! It is perhaps a dedication and love that is simply just there. And most parents cannot get away from it. I know it too — I ’ve experienced that devotion and deep love that knows no bounds. I just recently spent a wonderful long weekend with my daughter, her husband and their three children. After they left, the ache within was substantial. But because of that deep devotion, some make the severe mistake of doing too much for their kids. There’s an old parenting rule of thumb that perhaps gives us our best guide: don’t do for children what they can do for themselves. This rule can help us achieve the goal of creating a healthy environment. We’ve all heard of the helicopter parent, hovering too close for comfort over the child and creating many distortions in the child over time. Another type that we are hearing about these days is called the lawnmower parent — a parent who clears all obstacles from their children's path, so that they never have to deal with any problems by themselves. Instead of hovering, lawnmower parents clear a path for their child before they even take a step, pre-empting possible problems and mowing down obstacles in their child's way. Is that a problem? What parent hasn’t done that? What parent hasn’t thought of possible consequences of their teens’ decision making, from driving to being out too late? Parties that the teen is attending, the perils of teenage drinking, falling in with the wrong crowd, getting up late for school, getting assignments done… We’ve all done these kinds of things – trying to understand the teen’s potential consequences, and then at the very least – communicating that to our teen. Here’s the difference – guiding our teen is one thing, going down the treacherous path of doing it for them, is another. Are you feeling frustrated in your parenting of your child because you feel you are doing all the work? Maybe you are. Maybe you are, indeed, trying to make it all too good for the child. Maybe, just maybe, the frustration you feel is there because you are simply doing too much. Don’t do for children what they can do for themselves. It’s tricky, especially when there are learning disabilities, attention deficit issues and other challenges your teen may face. But the problem comes when good and normal assistance and guidance becomes doing it for the teen. Don’t. It simply will not help. And they are going to get to college not knowing a thing about self- advocacy. Parenthood is a job of repeatedly handing over responsibility to the child. It’s about emancipating our teen. Getting their own milk even if they spill it. Then they get to learn how to clean it up. That principal is paramount if we are going to rear teens who can take care of the spilled milk. What if they forget their most important paper at home? What can they do besides call Mom or Dad? If they are worried about talking to a teacher, should you do it for them? If they are too shy about asking for what they want in a restaurant, should you order for them? Should you be helping your teen by getting him or her together with friends and taking care of those arrangements? Are you afraid they’ll never do it themselves? If your child is tardy, should you go in with them to help them avoid the embarrassment of their tardiness? When your teen is having social problems, should you get involved and call the other parents? Over and over we are confronted with these decisions as parents.Don’tdoforchildrenwhattheycandoforthemselves. They may not be as proficient as you and as elegant as you in dealing with these typical areas, but the only way to learn is to somehow do it yourself. And grow in proficiency. To learn how to dust yourself off, get back up and keep going. Perhaps, what the teen may most need is your behind-the-scenes encouragement and affirmation as well as your confidence in them to be able to solve the problem. That is something you can always give. Taking care of the problem for them? This is very likely – not – the thing to do. Key points: LET THE CHILD DO IT. If they can get the milk, then they need to get it. Even if that means they decide not to get it. Respect their decision making, even if it’s wrong. If your son or daughter can do it, don’t step in. IT’S ALWAYS OKAY TO GIVE GUIDANCE. To suggest. To help your teen think it through. If they don’t want it, let it There’s an old parenting rule of thumb that perhaps gives us our best guide: don’t do for children what they can do for themselves. CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE