“When I look back at my life I am so grateful for all the things my parents DIDN’T DO for me.”
As a parent our first instinct is often to want to jump in and make life easier for our kids. The problem with that is the more we do for our kids, especially as they grow older, the less we are allowing them the opportunity to learn and grow for themselves. Not only that, but we can strip them of the self-confidence they so badly need by doing for them what they really could have done for themselves.
I was reminded of this when my 24 year old daughter Ashley called me this week so excited to tell me that she had just left the Bank where she had opened up her very first business banking account all on her own. She proudly proclaimed, “Mom, I’m all grown-up!!! I just opened my very first bank account all by myself!” She went on to tell me how nervous she had been going into the branch on her own to meet with the banker for the first time. She’d never had to do that before because as her Mom I had always handled the bank accounts for her without me even considering the fact that by doing so I was robbing her of the experience. As I listened to her go on so excitedly about her experience at the bank and I heard the joy and confidence she had from having done it on her own, I wanted to kick myself for all the times I’ve done things for her that I should have allowed her to do for herself.
Looking back at my own life and my years of becoming an adult, if my parents had stepped in and handled things for me I would never have learned how to take care of myself, how to take accountability for my mistakes, how to financially support myself, how to study and learn and be accountable in my schooling, how to be responsible in my jobs and later my career…the fact that my parents didn’t do everything for me is what taught me to become the person I have and to accomplish everything I have been able to.
And when I look at my own two children and the amazing adults they have become I know that much of that comes from the fact that they had great responsibility placed on their shoulders growing up because I was a single working mom and they had to step up and help me a ton around the house and they had to handle their schoolwork all on their own because I wasn’t there in the afternoons to help them. It was those responsibilities that helped them grow into the great people they are today.
But even now as my son and daughter are all grown-up with families of their own, I still have to constantly remind myself that I need to be very careful not to rob them of experiences by simply doing things for them. There is a natural tendency as a parent to want to help and make our children’s lives easier because we can, but doing so doesn’t help, it hurts. What helps is simply offering advice, guidance, and encouragement so they know we believe in their ability to handle things and then making sure we tell them how proud we are of them when they actually do.
The more I take that approach and allow my kids go through the struggles of life, figuring out their careers, struggling to manage their finances, starting families and raising children, and learning to balance life on their own, the more I see how much they are learning through the struggles and challenges they face and the more confident and self-assured they become.
Sometimes we parents need to be reminded that good parent isn’t doing everything for your children, being a good parent is being wise enough to recognize what we shouldn’t do for them.
~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the newly released book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )