Letting Our Kids Take Ownership

I worked so hard with my boys on homework this week. Each of them bombed a quiz that I thought we really knew. I was so upset it was a little weird. I had to catch myself and say hey, this is not my homework. I already did middle school. I had definitely gone too far. Not that school isn’t important, it is. But I need be objectively available. Not crazy enmeshed. It is such a relief to get out of the meddle mode. To let them own their school work. To let go of the agenda in the thousands of requests that we make of our children. More importantly, it lays the groundwork for our kids’ independence. It lets them know that we have confidence in the decisions that they make. Even if the decisions are not the ones we would make, we show our kids that we believe they have the fortitude to work things out. Here are a few common examples of times that you need to dig in your heels and other times when you can take a relieved breath and let your child take over.

  1. Your child does not want to wear a coat and it is 30 degrees outside. Sometimes you need to ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen here?”. A little chilly while waiting for the bus? Uncomfortable at recess? LET IT GO! It is the best lesson in dressing for the weather that your child will ever get!
  2. Your son won’t brush his teeth. Sorry, non-negotiable. This fight can get really old. Try a hygiene chart in the bathroom that your child uses. Then you can just say “Check your chart” and save yourself from the frustration of repeating yourself.
  3. Your daughter won’t eat dinner (but wants to snack all night) or your son repeatedly forgets his lunch. Hunger pulls on the parental strings in a uniquely powerful way. We are fortunate that our children are far from starvation. Let go of the fight and let hunger teach your child to take responsibility for caring for his or her body.
  4. Your daughter has a question at the library, doctor’s office, restaurant. Let her ask it! Be patient and let her find the words and work through the self-consciousness. It show her that you have faith in her abilities and let’s her practice the important life skill of negotiating.
  5. Homework. This is a tricky one that is different for every child. Your child needs to take responsibility for homework but the level where each child can do this varies. If your son struggles with a learning issue, you need to support him so he can succeed. But leave room for him to take over at the appropriate level. This may mean that you do the first 3 math problems together and he does the last 3 independently. Or that your help him brainstorm ideas for an essay then he writes it. But if your daughter is avoiding homework because she would rather be on the computer then let her show up at school with an unfinished assignment. If you fix the homework, rewrite the report and oversee each project, your child never takes ownership of his or her schoolwork.