when it’s time to step back
One of the most difficult challenges for parents is learning when to step back and let your kids take charge. It’s an awkward time because you want to trust their judgment, but you’re not quite sure. Sometimes, you’re downright certain that they’re going to make the wrong choice, but you have to let them. They need to learn from their mistakes.
I was never what you would describe as a helicopter parent, hovering incessantly over my children and their every move, but I certainly did protect them. The triplets were born 12 weeks premature and remained in intensive care for months and came home with continuing medical issues. Of course I hovered! I felt like a lioness protecting her cubs. But, as the girls grew strong they rapidly began to assert themselves and made it abundantly clear that they were determined to take charge of their lives and destinies. I had little or nothing to say about their ultimate choices (except of course when I was paying and we know how that works).
There were many years when I had to stand back and keep my mouth shut, careful not to impose my opinions too heavily into their decision making. I learned from experience that if I pushed too hard, they were bound to go in the opposite direction of what I recommended – pretty typical of kids and teens.
There are times when you mustn’t intervene – when your kids have to fight their own battles on the playground, in the classroom, on the job and in their social lives. No matter how painful it may be to stand by and do nothing – to step back from the scene – you simply must so that your children know they have to stand on their own two feet and advocate for themselves. I have learned over time that my children are perfectly capable of doing things for themselves and taking care of themselves. Isn’t that what we all want for our children? That they are strong and confident and more than able to do what needs to be done to progress in their lives? Letting them learn and do for themselves has equipped them with the tools they need to make sound decisions. I have learned that my daughters can make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, even when they bat their eyes at me and tell me mine are oh, so much better. I have also learned that by stepping back in the past and trusting them, they now trust me and seek my advice. Our relationship has matured as they have grown and I have become remarkably “wiser” from their perspective. Now it’s more fun to step in than back, but only upon invitation. And as for those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yep, I still make ‘em. Just can’t help it.