noun, 1. the agency, function, or power of a person authorized to act as the deputy or substitute for another.
Kylie, my eleven year old daughter, jumped into the car the other night at school. I was picking her up late from a practice. She was fighting back tears which were welling up in her eyes. I could see how distressed she was and given that she's normally a pretty happy child, I inquired,
"Hey, kiddo, how's it going?"
"Well, not good. My band teacher is mad at me. He says he's going to give me F's for my homework sheet. He knows that it's me, not you signing the piece of paper. He says its a legal document and a parent has to sign it," she muttered quietly not looking me in the eyes.
"Hmmm. Well, that's interesting."
Just a few weeks prior, after hearing Jessica Lahey speak, (author of New York Times Best-selling parenting book, The Gift of Failure), I took some of her advice to heart and decided to "give it a whirl".
She had shared her point of view as both a teacher and parent on how we're disempowering our children by doing everything for them. We're racing over to the school with every forgotten homework assignment or instrument (Guilty- I've done this) and checking the school "parent portal" for grades on a daily basis (Do you ever know what your kid has gotten on their test or quiz before they have? Yup, guilty of that as well) and finally, we're also disempowering them by signing every assignment that comes home when the teacher asks for it.
Now, I understand why this teachers ask for this. It's a big C-Y-A for the teachers. I'm sure teachers get tired of hearing parents say, "I had no idea my son/daughter was doing so poorly in this class. I wish I would have know, I would have come sooner to meet with you if I had." But the truth is, every time we "take over" and sign something for them, they no longer "own it". It's now Mom or Dad's issue to worry about. Problem solved, temporarily anyway.
A few weeks prior to Kylie getting this feedback from her band instructor, I had told her she could be my proxy because what I knew when I was signing the paper which stated whether she practiced every day or not, that she most definitely was not. I was curious to see how she would handle it if she was given the responsibility of honestly (and I know this is a high value for her) reporting back how much she practiced at home.
I can't say it was a "miracle cure", there was no magic pill and she didn't now practice every night, however, she did now OWN when she hadn't been practicing and together we worked out a plan where I would remind her to practice once her homework was done and before she could move onto playing for the afternoon. We both agreed to the plan.
So, my question for you is, what can you give your child proxy over? What is something you can really just let go of and be willing to get a little push-back on (if it's really unnecessary).
- Are you willing to stay out of the "parent portal" and let your kid manage her/his own grades?
- Are you will to let your child talk to their coach themselves if they aren't getting the playing time you feel like he/she should be?
- Are you willing to stay out of the argument your child is having with a friend by brainstorming with them the wording and phrasing they should use when they go talk to the friend themselves.
If we truly want to raise empowered kids, ones who will to be able to navigate this often confusing and sometimes messy world, we need to be willing to start letting go of our control now. It's not always going to be easy or straightforward, but eventually you won't be able to be there for every life event (assume wifi goes out for just a few minutes and they can't reach you, as we are often tethered to them even after they are grown and flown), nor should you. And you will both be so proud when they are adults. You have worked yourself out of a job and now can just be his/her friend.
Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Asia Mape, one of the Co-Creators of www.Ifyouletmeplay.com. We discussed the issue "Is youth sports were ruining our kids childhoods?"
I would love to hear your thoughts, over on my website, KirstenJonesInc.com
P.S. If you're a mom looking to take a break from the hustle of preparing for the holidays and you're feeling the need to reconnect with your daughter and remember what this season is all about--family and connection. Then come join me and other mothers & daughters for our December Butterfly Beach Club on December 16! Reserve your spot HERE.
Details can be found RIGHT HERE!