I’ve been teaching long enough to have taught two generations of kids. A lot of my former students are parents now. I’m sad to say that I am seeing big, big changes in the kids raised today. I’d love to see parents raising independent children, but more and more, I’m seeing entitled youth. You know them: They don’t wait for anything. Their parents don’t want them punished. EVER. Consequences? Yeah, right! Everything is done for them, they get a medal for participating, and everyone deserves as many chances as they want.
It’s a touchy subject, but as the adults here, we need to stop and look around at what is happening. What are we doing? Where did the parent or teacher with authority go? And worse…what are we setting these kids up for? What can we do to be sure we are raising independent children?
Imagine this school setting:
A school has a reward planned for students who meet basic behavioral expectations. Let’s say the reward is an ice cream party for the last 30 minutes of the day. Perhaps the behavior expectation is that students can’t serve detention for the quarter or maybe they aren’t tardy to school for a semester. The day of the reward comes, and a mother is mad that her child will not be participating, so she raises such a stink that the school backs down.
What lesson has the mother taught that child? Several, sadly.
1. Rules don’t matter, because they should have exceptions for you.
2. Adults don’t have any authority over a mad mother.
3. If you get in trouble, just tell your mom to fix it. Consequences aren’t for you!
4. Getting a reward you don’t deserve is okay.
This is just not okay! I find it so sad that a parent would be more upset at the idea that her child would not attend the ice cream party than the fact that her child consistently chose to break rules. As a teacher, I see this sort of behavior so often, and I have to be honest, some of the students I’m seeing are not living in reality anymore. Raising independent children means raising children to earn rewards and accept consequences.
Imagine this classroom:
A teacher plays a game with her students and gives a prize to the winner(s). At the end of the game, half of the class approaches her for a prize, because they participated. Wait! Are there prizes in life for just participating? Sometimes, yes, but mostly, no. Prizes are given to winners. Participating in life is just expected of us.
Imagine this morning situation:
A student gets to school and realizes he/she has forgotten to bring a lunch. The student goes to the teacher and asks to call home so Mom or Dad can bring lunch. Wait! Do the mom and dad work? Do they have to drop everything and jump to the rescue of the child? Does the school not have a cafeteria? Is the child’s day more important than the parent’s? How are parents raising independent children if they drop everything for their children?
Imagine this homework assignment:
A project is due, and although the teacher has been monitoring the class’s progress and has emailed a student’s parent that the child is not making any progress, on the due date, the project is turned in, very well done, and seemingly done by an adult. Surely this parent didn’t do the project, did he/she? Well, sadly, this happens, too.
What are parents to do?
Raising independent children means we have to let go a bit. I’m a mother, and I’m far from perfect. I want my child to win the prize. I want my child to participate in the ice cream social. School lunches can be terribly unhealthy and disgusting, and I want my child to eat a good lunch. Lastly, I want my child to turn in a great project and get an A.
But…I also know that I NEED my child to put in his best effort. My child NEEDS to respect adults and follow rules. I NEED my child to know that I have a very busy life and I cannot drop everything to wait on him all of the time. My child NEEDS to do the learning on his own. So, I let my child receive consequences from an adult when he breaks the rules. I let my child see someone win a prize. Doesn’t that give him something to aspire to? I let my child eat a school lunch. He didn’t forget his lunch again! I let him get the grade he deserved on an assignment. As a teacher, I also ask him do some extra work at home to practice that same skill he didn’t seem to want to do at school.
I think it is time for parents to start being the parents again. No, please don’t read this as me saying all parents need to change! I’m also not saying that parents don’t love their children or should never help them when needed. It seems like some parents want to show their children how much they love them by taking away any unpleasantness in their lives. We may think we are helping, but in the long run, we are raising kids who grow up and get hit hard with reality. It hurts way more the older we get, so teaching the hard lessons at a young age is that much more important!
So I propose this for raising independent children:
1. Let your child fail.
No, not fail 9th grade, necessarily, but failing a spelling test or serving a detention for a missing assignment will not be the end of the world. Not participating in a reward that he/she didn’t deserve will teach your child to do his/her best and it will make a victory that much more appreciated.
2. When your child fails, be there to support him or her.
Give a hug, do some encouraging, come up with a game plan TOGETHER. Reach out to the teacher or the counselor to come up with a plan to help your child. Have your child complete a self-evaluation to see where he/she can improve. From your child’s answers, you can come up with some ideas for getting organized, meeting deadlines, or following rules in class.
3. Teach your child to try his/her best and then be proud of the real accomplishments.
Is math hard for your child? Did he move from progressing to proficient or from a C- to a C+? Those deserve celebrating! Don’t do the work for your child, but by all means, be involved and work WITH your child. Celebrate the small successes so your child stays motivated and makes progress.
4. Teach them to be independent.
If you want to raise independent children, you have to teach them the skills to become independent. Does your middle schooler or high schooler still call you to bring things to school? Teach him to make lists, organize his backpack the night before, and use a planner to keep track of important information. Maybe give your child a one-time emergency call where he/she can call you to bring something from home. Just don’t make it an every week thing, or your child will never learn to become organized.
5. Does your child whine if he/she doesn’t win?
Have your child practice things that are difficult, and remind your child that no one wins al the time. Find activities your child excels at so he/she might get a sweet taste of victory. Most importantly, discuss what the winner might have done to prepare for winning.
6. Work with your child’s teacher and not against him or her.
Reach out to the teacher. Speak to him or her like a professional. Admit where your child has weaknesses and ask for help. We probably see a side of your child that you don’t see. I ask my son’s teacher about his work habits because I don’t know what he is like in a room of 20 kids. I know what he is like at home. Does he do his homework for me? Yes, because I am one adult in charge of one child. That is a pretty great ratio. When it is one adult to 20 children, I don’t always know how my child is working. I trust his teacher and I want her to tell me how he does on his own. After all, as much as I love my son, I don’t want to raise a child who will be living with me when he is 30!
7. Don’t make excuses for your child.
Did your child not do his homework? Don’t explain to the teacher all of the activities your child does as a reason for your child to not do what is expected. So your child has sports practice after school. If he/she cannot fulfill school requirements, maybe those sports need to be put on hold until the time is right.
I’d love to hear what you all think about this!
Teachers and parents, please leave a comment or share on Facebook. This is so important and if we want to be raising independent children of this generation, we need to work together. Let’s help them become stand on their own and learn how to make good choices.