As parents we really want to help. We want the best for our kids. To insulate them from harm. To help them get the best grades. Find the right friends. Excel at their talents. Grow to be responsible, respectful, self-sufficient people. But too often we’re the ones getting in the way of all of those things by “helping” too much. Here’s the problem…if we rescue kids from their repeated forgetfulness or unwillingness to do for themselves – we rob them of the opportunity to learn from their missteps. They can’t even get to the valuable life lessons or find creative solutions to their problems because we, as attentive, eager-to-make-everything perfect parents stop them in their tracks.
“But Amy…” people ask, “Are you suggesting I should let my kids fail?” My answer is this: Don’t get so caught up in the words. You’re not fast-tracking your kids for failure by letting them make mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are a realistic part of life. They are incredible opportunities to learn - and better your kids start learning how to handle them now in the safe harbor of your home then to wait until they are grown and are unprepared for real world dilemmas, right? In the long run, making mistakes and learning from them will give our kids more self-confidence and resiliency than when we swoop in to save them from failure.
Do you really want to ‘help’ your kids have the best shot at a strong future? Take a tip from the “Un-Entitler Toolbox” (a collection of strategies from my latest book, The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemicwhich is a step-by-step guide to raising capable, grateful kids in an over entitled world), and implement a No Rescue Policy in your home.
But first – a word of caution: put this in place when you have a concern about frequent forgetters and constant carelessness. The truth is we can all make mistakes from time to time and as family members, it’s our job to have each other’s back. However – if you have kids who are old enough to know better, developmentally ready, and look to you to bail them out at every turn? Then this tool is for you.
Here’s how to put it into place:
Set The Ground Rules In Advance
Like any big change, putting this policy in place means you need to clearly explain the expectations for the No Rescue Policy up front so that everyone is on the same page. For example, “You are really growing up and I know that you are capable of managing some things for yourself. So, from now on, we’re going to expect you to be in charge of your school responsibilities. That means if you forget something at school or forget your homework at home, etc. – we won’t be leaping to the rescue to fix your mistakes.” The same policy is in place for forgotten sports equipment, musical instruments, and things like library books. Tackle the ‘I forgot blues’ first, then move on to other opportunities for rescue such as missed deadlines, dropping cell phones, etc.
Make Kids Part Of The Process
Ask your kids to help come up with a list of solutions to help them be successful in remembering - such as, “what ideas do you have for remembering your homework every day?” Or, “how can you make sure you make it to practice on time?” Let everyone weigh in and start putting those ideas into practice. From making lunches and packing backpacks the night before, to setting their own alarms, to putting a calendar in a spot no one can miss – there are lots of ways to make sure everyone in ‘your boat’ is rowing in the same direction!
The Toughest Step: Do Nothing
That’s it. When they stumble (they will) and forget (of course), let them work it out on their own and deal with whatever repercussions occur. The first few times will be harder on you than them, but– they’ll survive. In fact, they’ll do better than that – they’ll thrive, because they will have learned that they can mess up and it won’t be the end of the world. That they can do things for themselves and that feels good. That you’ve set boundaries and expectations and you upheld them. That they can make a mistake AND find a solution. Wow – sounds like a good foundation for adulthood - don’t you think?
Failure Doesn’t Have To Be A Hard Landing
When your kids fail, and they will of course, handle it with empathy and love. Instead of an “I told you so”, let them know that things happen and that’s OK as long as they are trying. Remember – the goal of the No Rescue Policy is not to emphasize parental authority — it’s to instill personal responsibility. So next time your kids forget their homework, gym shoes, or permission slip, lean on your love for them and fire up your understanding – and of course, help them brainstorm tweaks to the system so they’ll be more likely to remember next time. They just may surprise you!
We want to do our very best by our kids. Sometimes that means snuggling and sometimes that means standing your ground. The first one is easy, the second one usually takes a little practice. Hopefully, this tool will make the journey a little easier! I’d love to hear how it works for you!
Want to learn more about teaching your kids how to be responsible and un-entitled? Pick up a copy of Amy’s new book The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. Now available wherever books are sold.