Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sue Scheff: Annie Fox Parenting Blog

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

When we say “That’s not my problem” what we usually mean is some variation of:

a) “Tough luck, buddy.”

b) “Couldn’t care less.”

c) ”Better you than me!”

d) “Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?”

Pretty heartless stuff. And because callousness isn’t part of the standard definition of “good parent” many of us believe that when it comes to our children… su problemo es mi problemo. Isn’t that our biological imperative? To solve all of their problems so that their lives hum along without a hiccup? To guarantee through our tireless efforts that our offspring live a joyful existence 24/7 and are constantly bathed in the sunlight of public acceptance and approval?

Put it that way and it sounds like a twisted crock, doesn’t it? Our obsession with perfecting our kids’ imperfections and rushing in whenever we hear the faintest sigh of frustration is no measure of parental love or responsibility. The more we indulge in making their struggles our own the more we blur the line between love and control. That’s the best way I know to prevent them from developing self-confidence and self-sufficiency. (AKA the primary parenting objective)

I’ve got a massive marshmallow for a heart. So I know from almost 30 years of personal experience that no parent enjoys seeing their kid (of any age) struggling academically, physically, socially, emotionally, psychologically, financially. But the truth is, allowing kids, tweens and teens to deal with age-appropriate “problems” provides them the satisfaction of working things out for themselves this time. Better still it gives them the real confidence of knowing that in the future when something like this comes up again (and it will) they’ve got what it takes to deal with it. Parents who provide their kids with those kinds of learning experiences aren’t good parents… they’re great parents.

So, repeat after me: Her crooked tooth is not my problem. His complexion is not my problem. Nor is her shyness. Nor is his height. Nor is their level of popularity amongst their classmates or the way their so-called friends treat them. The fact that he doesn’t have the money to go with his friends to the new Harry Potter movie on opening day (because he spent it all on a new game last week) is not my problem. The fact that he’s annoyed because I won’t give him more money this month is not my problem. The fact that his friends are teasing him because is not my problem. The fact that he’s not talking to me and is barricaded is not my problem.

See… when you get into this, it becomes so much easier to see what isn’t your problem without losing one bit of love, affection or respect for your kids.

We all have so much on our plates these days. Wouldn’t it feel great to lighten our loads? You can start by giving yourself a break from trying to make your child and his/her life experience perfect. Of course, if you’d rather not, that’s cool. It’s not my problem.