parenting styles

Turns Out I’m Not A Jerk, I’m Just A “No Rescue” Parent

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girl learning about consequencesWoo hoo! I knew it! Take that all you moms at the park who look at me like I’m a monster when I don’t force my kid to wear a coat in the winter, or when I refuse to buy them a snack after they forgot theirs at home. Turns out I am what the Today Show calls “a no rescue” parent, which is the antithesis to a “helicopter parent.” And I wouldn’t want to be any other way.

For a while there, my kids would lackadaisically expect me to have everything they could possibly need ready for them without their deigning to ask. If I forgot something, they would get angry at me. That was not okay. I decided that this nonsense was going to stop, and that instead the kids and I were going to work together to help them learn to be more responsible for themselves.

My kids are in the first grade now, and we have been working on this memory thing for a while. For example, I will ask them before we leave for school, “Do you have everything you need?” They know very well what they have to have with them for school. Now, if I see that one of them is about to walk out of the door without their backpack (something that happens with startling frequency) then I’ll get more pointed and say, “Hey. Are you forgetting something? Are you sure? Are you sure?” That usually jogs the old memory. And my goal is not for them to fail. I try to set them up to succeed: backpacks and water bottles are together, book bags and folders are nearby, and most of the time they remember to wear shoes with no prompting. As a result, before we walk out the door I usually only need to ask them if they have everything they need for school, and that is enough to help them remember anything they might have forgotten. It is fantastic.

I believe that teaching my kids to take some responsibility for themselves is empowering to them and important for me. If I am constantly getting everything they need together for them, then they won’t think about doing it for themselves because Mom always takes care of it. And then, if they didn’t have something at school one day, it would be my fault. It seems degrading and ridiculous to be held accountable for my first-grader not having their take-home folder. I tell my kids all the time that as soon as they start paying me to be their personal assistant, they can give me orders and I will do all of that stuff for them. Until then, we’re going to work on how to remember things ourselves.

For a while I thought I might just be a jerk. The kids teachers have praised me for allowing my kids to suffer from the natural consequences of their actions, because apparently, teachers have a real hard-on for natural consequences. I appreciate that. But some other moms tend to make me feel like I am being cruel for not helping my kids out. Again, this isn’t something I just started doing one day so I could shove it in their faces when they forgot something and say, “Ha! I knew you’d forget!” It’s been a process. And when they do forget something I say, “Well, you forgot today. You’ll have to try to remember tomorrow.” Then I drop the mic and stroll on out of school.

In her post on Today Parents, Jordana Horn explains her feelings about being a “no rescue” parent, saying:

Sure, my kids would probably get reprimanded by teachers the first time they forgot their homework, or their string instruments. But it would also teach them the important lesson that there are real repercussions for mistakes. Did I waver a bit when I got that first phone call from school from my older son, asking me if I’d bring his cello? Sure: I heard the stress in his voice. But I just said calmly, “Just tell them you forgot.” I still felt bad when I hung up the phone, but I knew I’d done the right thing in the big picture.

If you know that someone is always going to be there to pick up the slack, then you tend to take it easy when it comes to dotting i’s and crossing t’s. Once kids are old enough to know better,it does them no favors to fix all of their problems for them. Sometimes shit happens, and it’s better that they learn how to deal with it now than be taken by surprise by the idea of responsibility when they’re twenty.

(Photo: Hortz Petzold / Shutterstock)