The Fine Line.

A friend of mine and I were talking about that balance between teaching kids to take care of themselves, while also helping them when they really need it. It’s not a concrete line…do THIS, but DO NOT do THIS. It’s fuzzy and situational. I describe it as a maternal instinct, trusting myself to know the difference between, “My child NEEDS my help,” and “My child WANTS my help.”

I have one child who often wakes up in the middle of the night with growing pains. On the school days following those rough nights, I offer to make his bed for him because I recognize he’s tired and could use some help. Sometimes, though, he asks simply because he doesn’t want to do it. He may be tired, but in other moments I just make a situational judgement call and say something like, “Nope…that’s your chore.”

I have another child who is VERY dedicated to school and sometimes is up way too late (in my opinion) doing homework and so I’ll offer to pack a lunch for her the next day. Or sometimes she’ll just ask and I can tell by the look on her face that she’s struggling and I know she has a big test and so I oblige. Other days? She gets up and immediately starts watching YouTube and then runs out of time and I do NOT make the lunch task on those days.

Sometimes we have to just trust our instincts, but I do not believe in rigidly refusing to help our kids when they need help. I believe there are lessons to be taught and learned, but I think important lessons are A) How to ask for help and B) How to trust people who love you.

I saw this sign on Facebook – THANKFULLY accompanied by commentary by someone who looks at parenting like I do.

I get it, I have one kid who lost FIVE COATS one year at school. It can be frustrating when your kids struggle with simple tasks like remembering a jacket. I definitely made mine go out in the cold without one simply because it wasn’t in the budget to buy a new one after losing the old one. Our kids also are in a school system that uses laptops instead of books and they HAVE to charge their laptops every night which means they have to remember to put them in their backpacks the next day. We’ve had some years where that’s easier to remember than others, and I definitely have opted NOT to rescue my kid some days when they forget.

But I reserve the right to offer help if they need it. Maybe they forgot their laptop because they are so stressed about this big project that is due. Or maybe their best friend betrayed them. Maybe their hearts are broken or their minds are busy. I HAD MY OWN SPACE IN LOST AND FOUND IN HIGH SCHOOL BECAUSE I LOST SO MANY THINGS. I know how easy it is to be distracted. I’m 100% not going to SHAME my kid for being HUMAN.

My husband forgets his yoga mat some days so I’ll bring it to him. He has rescued me when I accidentally left my lights on or locked myself out of my car. We are ADULTS and we still need help, why would I assume my kids don’t as well?

There are definitely lessons to be taught and learned, and there are definitely kids that grow up without the right tools in their arsenal due to parents who did everything for them, but let’s not go to the opposite extreme. Let’s not forget that an important lesson is to trust your loved ones to help when you need it, and the VERY important lesson to ASK for help when you need it.

And let’s trust our instincts. It’s okay to say, “Sure, I’ll pack your lunch for you today,” because you know your child had a fight with their friend the night before but then say, “No,” the next day because they were just playing that new game on their phone. You don’t have to have strict hard rules about when to help and when NOT to help. You can judge the situation as it presents itself.

4 Comments

  • Carrie

    I love the way your brain works. I love that you think about things like this and write thoughtful commentary about them. I learn so much from your blog.

    And I agree with everything you just wrote.

  • Vhmprincess

    those signs piss me off, actually. As an adult, if you forget your phone/essential item needed for work, you are likely going to turn the car around and go get what you need. CHILDREN do not have the abilty to do that – they can’t zip home from school to get it. I assure you, no adult, finding they are without their phone or some urgently needed item, wouldn’t GO BACK AND GET it and NO ONE remembers things all the time. I agree with your decision on when to help vs. not perfectly – I think it’s kind of being a jerk to just be “too bad” all the time about stuff like that when the kid can’t go back and get things but adults can, and do!

    • Chlott

      I wholeheartedly agree. And I also think there is great value in leading by example so that your kids see that it is a kind and loving thing to help someone that needs help, but it is also fine to not step in and be someones rescue all the time.