Can we walk the tightrope of doing exactly enough for our kids so they succeed?

My son Grady (who, at the time of recording this episode, is 11) was curious about one of his cousins who has taken a job at a cinema. He asked questions like “how does he know which button to push for a customer ordering popcorn?” and “how does he know where to GET the popcorn?”

I explained the concept of “job shadow” training to Grady. His cousin will start work as a trainee and watch a seasoned cinema worker. Grady’s cousin will start doing the work, imitating the trainer’s example. Soon enough, Grady’s cousin will be doing his job without much assistance. Eventually, Grady’s cousin will know the work well and be able to take on his own trainees.

Parenting follows a similar pattern. Children aren’t little employees (that probably violates FLSA labor laws!), but they learn how to be humans the same way employees at a business learn new skills. Children can take on new tasks — whether putting dishes in the sink, tidying their own rooms, hanging up their own clothes, or making their own food — pertinent to their age and stage of development, under your supervision. And eventually, they will (for they must, if they are to grow up as they should) be able to do most tasks without your hands-on assistance.

The point I hope to drive home in this episode is this. Not only can you teach your kids anything, you can do it on your own terms. Suppose you’re studying Kerry Flatley’s Self-Sufficient Kids program or reading Merrilee Boyack’s The Parenting Breakthrough, and you feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks you’re “supposed” to be teaching your kids by the age they are that you haven’t done. Well, HALT that train of thought before it leaves the station, and here’s why:

Your parenting decisions, if you choose them consciously and love your reason for choosing them, are yours to own and stand by. You might still be making lunches for a child who knows how to prepare food. Or you might be teaching your six-year-old to make PB&J sandwiches. If you love your reason for continuing to provide, or for teaching a skill and retreating for the child to claim the independence their developing brains crave, that’s all that matters. Only you have a stake in your parenting process.

Remember: you’ve got this!

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