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.

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