It’s not easy to say this, but part of a parent’s job is to help our kids not need us.
This became very clear to me, last week, when my daughter Christy moved to New York City. To many, the Big Apple is a scary, fast-paced place. Christy, however, thrives in this city. New York energizes her, she says.
At 21, Christy , a recent college graduate, was able to secure a much sought-after position in New York. She found an apartment through Craigslist, rented a car, subleased her old apartment in Tennessee, paid her bills, packed up her stuff and drove 13 hours to her new home in Brooklyn. She figured out every single detail on her own. After all, she’s an adult, and that’s what adults do.
To say that I’m proud of her and her sister, is a huge understatement. Their focus, hard work, attitude and resilience, are just some of the things I admire most.
My children were never the children who “got what they want, when they want it”. Each success was earned with hard work and commitment. Their work ethic is everything. Their dedication, admirable. They stick to their goals and achieve their dreams.
Parents often try so hard to create magical memories for their children to keep them happy. In the meantime, they remove obstacles and often fail to teach qualities like character, perseverance, patience, and determination. Basically, everything that they’ll need to be happy, successful adults.
As teens, my daughters had several friends who grew up in “a bubble”. Although we lived in an extremely safe neighborhood, their friends were afraid to walk down their own street without a parent. Moms supervised their homework assignments all the way through senior year. Every teacher-student disagreement was settled by a parent. Needless to say, those kids were a hot mess in college.
I don’t believe in over-parenting. Growing up, my mom fed and clothed us and occasionally asked if we had done our homework. We knew our “job” was to work hard and do well in school. At the tender age of 12, I found a job washing dishes at a restaurant. By 14, I was a cashier at a big box store where I remained until I graduated high school. After high school, I moved from a small town in Germany to NYC to work as an Au Pair. I was able to stand on my own two feet. This was way before we had cell phones and internet.
I look around and wonder what happened to independent young people? These days, so many parents still hover as their children attend college. Here’s what I see; a bunch of academically overqualified teens who are under-equipped to deal with the day-to-day issues of life. Many are afraid of their own shadow.
Some college kids don’t even pick their own classes. Their parents do. It’s real and I’ve seen it. The University of Utah has built a “cry closet” for students who feel overwhelmed with finals.
Isn’t college supposed to be a place to prepare students for adulthood? Sure, even adults get overwhelmed sometimes. We cry. But we do not expect places to be built for us so we can have a public breakdown. Furthermore, employers don’t offer “cry closets”. You deal with “stuff” or you get fired. This will really give you something to cry about.
Parents of college students need to step back and let the young adults handle their own college experience. While parents might think they are acting in their kids’ best interests, they are, in fact, denying them the opportunity to look after themselves.
Let your kids deal with the broken heater in their dorm. Have them pay rent and balance their check books. Encourage them to get a job. And please, let them pick their own classes.
Pushing yourself to overcome challenge is a source of pride for most people. This is not about being perfect. When my kids achieve a goal, I congratulate them. When they fail I give them encouragement and let them know that I believe in them. I also encourage them to try harder.
In my opinion, allowing your kids to deal with “life” is true love and true love thinks beyond instant gratification and short-lived happiness. True love values character and commitment over quick fixes.
Studies have found that when parents take over their children’s lives, the children feel more self-conscious and worried. To those kids the world must seem like a very scary place.
The truth is your kids are longing to live, so let them. If you micromanage your kids they will try to prove to you they can do it “their way”. If your teenager feels you cannot handle the truth about their life, they will hide it from you. My kids are not afraid to tell me when they mess up. They know I believe in them and I know they will try harder next time.
Trust me, you will be a lot more influential in your teen’s decision making if you cultivate an open relationship.
When we “clear the road” for our children, we make their life too easy. We don’t allow them to build necessary life skills they’ll so desperately need to handle the “real world”.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the comment section below.