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Launching Adults, Not Babysitting Children

After having our first baby, my husband James kicked me out of the house at 6:15 am to attend a neighborhood cycling class.  I am not a morning person, but I went because I knew it would be good for me.  Thirteen years later, I still fill up my water bottle and head for class.  Just recently, I struggled to keep up. My muscles ached.  I wanted to stop.  But my instructor kept yelling, “You’re already here!  You might as well work!  Stop swinging your hips!  More tension on the bike!” 

I had a good workout because she pushed me to work despite my feelings.  She wasn’t trying to make me miserable; on the contrary, her goal is to make me strong.  Imagine if she said one morning, “Arlene, you look tired.  Why don’t you just skip class and go out to coffee instead?”  Awesome!  I’d be sipping a vanilla latte instead of sweating.  But I don’t need a trainer who babies me.  I am in need of someone to keep me in line to make me stronger.  That’s the role of the instructor. 

Children today could use an instructor. Many kids are being babied by their parents when they should be pushed and championed.  Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying your first grader needs to fend for himself or that your teen with a broken heart should just get over it.  Your children need a shoulder to cry on and someone to always listen with love.  It’s your privilege to provide love as a parent.  But it’s also your privilege to be a coach and leader who pushes your child to the next level of development.  After all, you are launching an adult, not babysitting a child. 

Maybe you have a child who can’t sit in a restaurant without playing video games or using a phone.  You’ve just discovered your next small step: to retrain your child to sit and talk with people without a digital device.  That’s a skill he or she will need as an adult.  Does your child always “forget” to do his or her chores?  It’s time for a consequence to jog the memory.  Tired of seeing our puppy’s water bowl empty, James charged a $10 fee for the empty bowl.  That was a hefty fee for our kids, but the bowl gets filled up more regularly now.

As your children get older, they need you to do less for them.  James has caught me numerous times doing something for my children that they should be doing themselves.  For instance, he’ll say, “Why are you cutting Lucy’s fingernails?”  I just figure it’s faster; she’s only eight.  But of course, just the other day, she was clipping away just fine without my help.  Oh, our children will still need us close by as mentors and confidantes as they grow up, but they won’t need us micromanaging money, homework, laundry, or friendships.  Babying our kids can be crippling, not caring.

We can get used to supervising our children and all that surrounds them, perhaps thinking we will keep them safe.  What if we as parents are contributing more than our fair share to the prolonged adolescence of young people today?  It’s time for us to stand up and leave the room.  Let’s see what our kids can do on their own.  You may be surprised to see how far they can fly.