A hard lesson. But an important one.


There was a lesson to be learned today. They aren't always easy, but they are important.

My daughter didn't want to finish part of her homework. She had lots of reasons, some of them valid. 

Homework is a whole controversy on its own, I read more and more articles about how it doesn't do any good and doesn't improve grades or learning at all. 

Honestly I don't really care all that much about the homework itself, because I agree for the most part that it's not necessary. But I do try to encourage them to do it, because I do think that what is important is learning to follow directions and complete assignments. The particular assignment doesn't matter, but what does matter to me is the fact that their teacher told them to do something, and so they need to either follow through on that, or have a good reason not to.

So I told her "You don't have to do it. I am not going to make you do it. It is your decision. But if you choose not to do it, then it is your responsibility to explain your decision to your teacher."

She knows that I am more than willing to help her do her homework. I am willing to sit with her while she does it. I am willing to offer suggestions even for what sentences to write, or prompts to help her get started (all of which had been offered for this homework). But I am not willing to make excuses for her if she just straight up chooses not to do it. 

So I also explained that to her. And I explained that I am not going to lie for her (she wanted me to tell the teacher that we didn't have time to do it), and I am not going to tell her what to say to her teacher. If she is going to make a decision to not do something she has been asked to do, then she needs to have a good reason for her decision, and be willing to state her case truthfully to her teacher. And if she is willing to do that - if she is making a choice she feels good about, and if she is willing to stand behind her decision and hold strong to her reasons for deciding it, then I will always stand behind and support her. 

So she made her choice (to not do the homework), but then when it came time to explain her choice to her teacher she realized that it was not an explanation she felt good about giving. But then it was too late. It was time to leave for school and the homework wasn't done.

Fortunately in second grade the homework doesn't really count for anything. She's not going to get marked down for not doing it. She's not going to get in trouble of any kind. And her teacher is pretty laid back about it. But the consequence she does have to face is the possible disappointment of a teacher that she loves very much, which is maybe the worst consequence of all for her. She realized this at the last minute and was in tears, and there was nothing I could do to make it go away. It was a lesson she needed to learn. I told her that yes, her teacher probably would be disappointed. And it will be ok.

I don't think I was being mean by not helping her out of the situation, and I'm not trying to set her up to fail. It's just the opposite. I'm trying to set her up to succeed, and to help her build the confidence of knowing she can make her own choices, and the confidence that comes from knowing it's ok to fail sometimes.  I don't think we do our kids any favors when we make excuses for their choices. I think too many people don't give kids enough credit for their ability to learn and do the right thing. I think it is good for kids to make mistakes and learn from them, and we are depriving them of valuable opportunities for learning if we never let them fail. They need to see that we trust them to do the right thing, that we trust them to make the right decisions, and that we trust them to sometimes get it wrong and learn from that. If we always take over and try to make everything right, then all we are telling them is that we don't believe in their ability figure things out for themselves. We can guide them toward the right decisions, and we can help them find the words to identify why they are making their decisions, but they need to be empowered to make decisions. 

There is one big lesson in life I want to make sure my children learn and internalize: make choices you feel good about, and then stand behind them. 

This applies to everyone, not just kids, but I think it's a life lesson that's best learned early. 

I really think that if you are making thoughtful choices that you feel very strongly are the right thing to do, then you should have nothing to worry about. If you believe that the choice you've made is the right choice, then there should be no problem defending or explaining your reasons to anyone who might question you. I see it so often now in adults. People are so afraid of being judged, so afraid of what other people might think of their decisions, so negatively defensive, and so critical of others. It all bothers me so much. Why are we so worried about what other people think? Why do we get so upset when other people don't agree with our choices?

If you really believe that you are doing the right thing, then why would you care what anyone else thinks?

Stand up for your choices. Believe in yourself. And move on.

This is one of the biggest things I want my kids to take away. I want them to walk into adulthood with their heads held high, feeling proud of what they've done and feeling good about the decisions they've made.