My friend’s daughter wanted an ice cream cone tonight. They were freely being handed out at the other side of the room. She wanted one. Desperately wanted one, but wanted help. “Dad, will you come do it for me?” He wisely replied, “No, honey, you can do it yourself. Go ahead.” My friend was not being lazy or trying to take the easy way out, he was trying to instill self-reliance, moving her along that continuum of dependence to independence and letting her know he believes in her. He was doing the hard thing – nothing. Letting her do it herself.
When your children don’t want to do something themselves it is very easy to step in and do it for them. It’s quicker, less messy, the end result is much more to our liking and sometimes there’s much less hassle involved (yelling). But the end result is not the task at hand. The end result is a child that is learning to take another step for themselves, learning that we believe in them and realizing that they matter. The pout on their face and the whine that exudes from their mouth does not agree with that last statement but they don’t see the big picture, we do. But when we get tired, crunched for time, out in public or short on patience we forget, rush in and just get the ice cream cone. My friend didn’t. He reminded me that parenting is encouraging them and then doing nothing.
As I drove home I realized that the asks from my children are bigger now than going to get the ice cream cone. With late adolescents and emerging adults in the family the stakes are a bit higher. For both of us. Perhaps at first glance the task itself might not seem any different from an ice cream cone but they are still on that continuum of dependence to independence. And our goal is ultimately interdependence, where we can depend on each other. And as long as I am impatient (we have been at this a long time now), in a hurry or frustrated – I rush in when maybe I should just do nothing. Thanks for the reminder tonight Mike.