Encouraging self reliance in your children

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This is going to sound like a mean question, but when it comes to encouraging self reliance in your children, how should you go about it? How easy to do too much for them and make them reliant on you?

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Swimming goggles, shoes, music books, coats. Okay, so I don’t usually decorate myself in this fashion, but how much of this stuff should I have to remember?

I’m not questioning whether you should teach them to read and write, show them love and cook for them. What I’m referring to is whether you should pack their school bag for them. Should you return to school with items they’ve forgotten such as PE kit or music books? Should you carry their school bags and help with with all their homework?

A long, long time ago in my pre-fatherhood days I was listening to the radio. A woman was offering her advice on being a parent and she said if your kids forgets their PE kit, tough, you don’t go back home and get it for them. If you do it once, you’ll do it ten times and the kid will never learn to be self-reliant.

I remember nodding in agreement. She sounded wise, this was my kind of mother.

Earlier this week, however, I found myself in just this situation. Helen had received a medal in a gymnastics competition and wanted to let her PE teacher know. She’d asked me to print off a photograph of her receiving the medal to show him.

I did as she asked, but left the photograph languishing on the printer. I had told her to collect the picture, but in the rush to get out the door and get to school, it hadn’t happened.

This was a big moment for Helen. Wining that medal had been a huge inspiration for her and I knew it would mean a lot to show her PE teacher that picture. Next week would be a week too late. Her success would have been dimmed by time.

What did I do? I dropped the kids off, went home and collected the picture and took it back to school.

The next day was piano lesson day. Helen is under very strict instructions to pack her music books in her bag the night before her lesson.

Half way through the journey to school, it occurred to me I hadn’t seen the music books in her school bag. I asked if she’d remember to pack them. Needless to say, she hadn’t.

“This is a real problem,” remarked Helen. “My teacher doesn’t have any spare copies of the books I’m working from.”

I was going to tell Helen that it was tough, she’d have to deal with the situation and explain it to her teacher. Under the circumstances, however, I wasn’t sure what this would achieve.

For the second day in a row, I returned home and headed back to school. The words from that radio show were loud in my ears as I did so.

I have, of course, had to dash back to school on one or two other occasions as well. Usually it’s because a packed lunch has been left behind and when that happened, it would usually have been my fault, not the kids.

I guess the problem with my friend on the radio is that parenting isn’t an exact science. A forgotten but important photograph and an irreplaceable music book. Yeah, okay I’ll make an exception.

If, however, my kids ever forget their PE kit, well, tough. They can wear whatever they can pull out of the lost property box. I’d like to think that experience would teach them some self-reliance!

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