May 18

Teaching Responsibility Without "Training Wheels"

Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio

What do you do when your child is NOT turning in their homework on time, or not at all? What if you feel, as "Super Parent," that they are not doing the assignments "to their fullest potential?" Do you do it for them? Hover over them and point out how, concretely, to make it "better?" Let's examine.

Several weeks ago, I coincided with Jackie Sanin, the Founder of Jump! Immersion, on a Saturday afternoon at Jump!. As a parent, I had had a bit of a rough week, stressing out over the lack of enthusiasm I witnessed in my child to finish her book report/project. Even worse, she had missed some math homework… a first in this household. What was going on here?

I lamented this state of affairs with Jackie. Right away, she looked me straight in the eyes, and said, "You must it let it go; let her stand on her own two feet and FAIL." We have a friendly relationship, so she could be this direct. I felt like I had been punched in the chest; let my baby F-A-I-L? This goes against my cultural underpinnings and personal philosophy. What was Jackie saying?

Turns out, she was right. She explained that, in her experience as a parent, she had had some difficulty with her child turning in homework around 2nd or 3rd Grade.

She Took the Training Wheels Off

She told her child, in a calm and loving way that she had to budget time for the project. If she did not do this, the assignment would not be complete. "Mom" was not going to bail her out and do shuttle diplomacy or ask for leniency from the teacher. "Child" was going to have to speak to the teacher and state, matter of factly, that the work was not complete and give no excuses.

Fast-forward a few days in the Sanin Household...

The homework was not completed and Child had to go the teacher and state her case. Child was mortified; she learned her lesson with that emotionally stinging confession, in front of her peers.

I digested this information. Let my darling child get a bad grade in school? Sigh. Alright; I'm ready for the experiment.

I sat down with my child and calmly told her what my expectations were for this assignment. I advised her to budget her time. Consequently, she did not. The night before the assignment was due I emailed the teacher and advised her of my child's incomplete report and my stance. Teacher was ready to greet her the following day. My child had to present what she had, and explain to the teacher what was incomplete and why. Her teacher spoke to her about her own expectations, and we reviewed all this at home the following night. I think my daughter "got it." She is growing up and needs to follow the steps to finish her work on time. Good choices, good consequences. "Bad" choices, other consequences.

Teaching About Choices & Consequences

We all can agree that this was a "teachable moment."  Not an easy one, no "aha moment", but one that required reflection. This is something that I learned in smaller instances, with the teachers at Jump! Immersion. Children are not "punished." They are given the opportunity to reflect in a calm setting on the choices they’ve made that have impacted their classmates: A toy that was snatched. A hurtful word. All typical preschool and elementary moments.

The teachers keep a watchful eye on the class and individual dynamics, and step in to guide the child/ren to a meaningful understanding of their actions and the repercussions. It is truly amazing to watch.

As a parent, I sometimes don't feel as if I have this moment in time to stop, assess and reflect. It does us all good... Too bad that I can't fling this blog post to the person who cut me off on the Garden State Parkway yesterday...