It was 3 o’clock in the morning!
That’s even too early for an early-bird like me. Our 5-year old son was standing next to our bed whimpering. He had to go to the bathroom. He wanted us to know his need but also help him. (Side note- I don’t think I will ever understand this? In my mind, you just get up and go to the bathroom, take care of business, and get back into your bed. But, that’s just me!).
As he repeated his request, this time a bit louder, and with more of a moan, my wife gently told him, “Just go to the bathroom sweetie, you know where the light is, you know how to do this. You’re a big boy! You’ve done this many, many times before.”
“But I want you to help me mommy,” he declared. “I’m not going to help you buddy, it’s the middle of the night, you know how to do this,” she replied. He began to cry, and smack his hands on his legs. Then, he marched backwards. When he made it to the door of the bathroom, he turned and repeated his request again. My wife replied with a “no” once more.
She stuck to her guns. He used the bathroom and headed back to his bed. After a minute, she followed him, tucked him back in, and made sure he knew how proud she was of him. All this at 3 am!
As I laid there listening to all of this I realized something- there is a grave disadvantage in constantly rescuing our children. As trivial as it may be, I’m glad my wife (nor I) didn’t spring out of our bed when my son made the request for us to help him use the bathroom. “Harsh!” You say? “He’s a little kid. He needed you!” Perhaps. But, he is 5 years old. He really does know how to use the bathroom on his own. Granted he was half-asleep and that probably prompted a lot of his emotions that night. But I believe little bail outs like that, slowly, over time, can begin to cripple a child, and allow for the mentality of “mom or dad will fix this.”
I’m not talking about safety or well-being. If you’re child is in danger, or in some sort of trouble that is threatening their well-being, absolutely spring into action and do whatever it takes to defend or protect them. That’s our job as parents. But constantly stepping in and solving their problems, big or small, does nothing to teach them how to function in a complex world.
There’s is also the quandary of “you got yourself into this mess.” I’ve met so many parents who have big hearts and feel led to step-in and “fix”. That’s a good heart. But how far do you go with this? What is it teaching your children if you’re constantly stepping in to “clean up the mess they’ve made?” Perhaps a healthier approach is to stand by, allow them to figure things out, and be there to guide and coach, rather than bail out and fix?
Besides, if you’re constantly stepping in and fixing your child’s smaller, everyday problems, when they really do have a big need, it might not be as powerful or speak as loudly to their hearts if they’re used to you always rescuing them. My goal is to raise children who become healthy, grateful adults, who know we are there for them but also know how to function in society and figure out problems on their own before running to us for help.
There is a disadvantage in constantly rescuing your child and not allowing them to navigate certain rough waters in this world. Even at 3 o’clock in the morning when they have to go to the bathroom. What do you think?
There are lots of views on this, I’m positive. I’d love to hear yours.
Do you agree or disagree with this thought? Why or why not? What has worked for you in raising your children? What has not worked? Use the comment section and share your thoughts.
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