This I Resolved: Encouraging Self-Reliance

homeworkEditor's note: This is part of a series of personal stories on resolutions that worked — or didn't — in 2012.

This past year, my wife and I decided to let go and give our kids more freedom, including to fail.

I don't like to consider us helicoptering parents but, frankly, we are. Our son was diagnosed with ADHD four years ago and we've developed the habit of working very closely with him on his schoolwork. He started middle school this year and one of the key points of the curriculum is an emphasis on self-reliance. In giving him more freedom to fail, we're making plenty of mistakes but we hope someday, maybe soon, we'll get more right than we get wrong.

Here are some of the things we're trying:

- We review the homework guidelines from the teacher and set expectations and priorities for the work that will get done each evening. After that we provide time checks so he doesn't spend all night working on one thing but we try (really hard! often failing!) not to guide him through task by task. Once he has clear expectations he needs to be in charge.

- When we look at his homework if we see a mistake we don't try to work through it with him but simply point to the item and ask him to take another look at it.

- We check the Seattle School District site The Source to track progress. If we find a problem it's his responsibility to come up with a plan or write questions he has to follow up on.

As a parent it's not easy to let go but soon our kids will be teenagers and they won't want to hang out with us. They won't be as willing to listen to us or take our advice.

Perhaps by giving them a little freedom now they'll respect us more later.

jak_headshot_da_1002About the author: John Kubalak is a writer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, raconteur, and scalawag. He does not publish science fiction under the pseudonym Jonathan Black but he does publish a monograph on fatherhood, The Eclectic Dad. He has a son, a daughter, a beautiful wife (and a little dog too!) who are adorable, maddening, zany, and brilliant all at the same time.

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