Fortunately, there is an answer. Unfortunately, it isn't black and white and isn't easy to do.
To decide, we need to ask ourselves two questions:
- Can he do it himself?
- Should he do it himself?
If the answer is yes to both questions, you must let him struggle. Coach, listen, love...but don't do any of it for him.
If the answer is yes to one question but no to the other, you probably should work side by side with him rather than intervene.
Part of the reason this is hard is that we parents are such great codependents! We like being an active part of our childrens' lives. We love to do things for them. But if we meddle where we shouldn't, we are actually sending them a message that we don't think they are capable. And...conversely, if we don't intervene when we should, we are actually sending them a message that we don't care and that they aren't worth helping.
Another dilemma...once our children figure out the nature of the game, they are great at manipulating us and pressing our guilt buttons.
My son had a fear of abandonment...and I traveled on my job. I always came home to two frustrating reports:
- A request for a conference from his teacher. He would sit and stare into space with a little smile on his face...but he did not participate.
- A report from his babysitting grandparents that he always prayed in his nightly prayers that his mom would come home.
He's a father now. Looking back, I struggled throughout his childhood to set personal boundaries with work. I set my own schedule. I sat in my bosses office and told him what I was dealing with. He asked, "What do you want to do about it?" I responded, "I don't want to spend the night away from home more than one week a month." He said, "Okay. Don't schedule yourself out of town more than one week a month."
Duh! The problem was clearly mine. It was a hard lesson for me to learn I couldn't do it all; something had to go. It was a hard lesson to prioritize what to keep and what to dismiss.
When I finally got my values straight and realized that my son would always be more important than my job, prioritizing was easier. Not easy...but easier.
I was such a good codependent!
Enjoy the wisdom of guest psychologist Pat Nordberg through our YouTube Video Love and Laughter: They'll Conquer Anything!