Always Helping Kids Isn't Always Helping Them

By Lenore Skenazy

September 5, 2019 4 min read

My friend Michelle's preschool daughter has autism. Every morning Michelle brings her into school, where the staff takes the time to teach the kids with special needs how to get their boots off, how to stuff their mittens in their pockets, how to hang their coats on the pegs, etc., etc.

Meanwhile, right across the hall, there are a bunch of second graders who do not have special needs. You might not realize that, however, because their PARENTS have brought them inside and are busy taking off their little boots, stuffing their mittens in their pockets and hanging their coats on the pegs for them while the kids stand there like lampposts.

Isn't it weird that nowadays a lot of people think that being a "good" parent means treating their little darlings as if they're handicapped — more handicapped than kids with actual special needs?

Consider the simple fact that when most of us were growing up, the majority of kids walked to school. Today, that number is 1 in 10. Most are driven. On the way home, some schools do not even allow young kids to "self-dismiss." Bus drivers are sometimes forbidden from dropping a child off at the bus stop unless there is an adult waiting there to shepherd them home.

Or how about the fact that around the country, PTAs have found a new way of raising money: They auction off the drop-off zone that's directly in front of the school. That's the very space that would be marked "Handicapped Parking" if it were in front of the zoo or mall. So parents are VYING for the chance to treat their kid like an invalid.

It's not like I'm immune to the pressure to over-help. Confession: I used to make my kids' beds when they were more than capable of doing it themselves. But for me, it was faster. And it was annoying to have to badger them. But the times that I did actually manage to step back, I saw the young men they were capable of being: dudes who could actually smooth out a blanket! Imagine that!

The thing for us to remember is that, while no kid likes chores, kids DO like being grown-up. It's a basic drive, like eating or sleeping. That's why kids as young as 2 will declare, "I cut!" and raggedly tear their pancakes; even babies don't want to be treated like babies. But baby them long enough and the drive to become a competent adult gets beaten out of them. "Mom, can you (fill in the blank) for me?" Make breakfast? Get them to the game? Sleep with their girlfriend? (Well, maybe not ...)

Imagine if there were a class that would teach our kids how to be self-reliant and responsible. They would probably be happier because of it. It would have a waiting list a mile long!

In fact, there is such a class now: "Adulting," it's called. The students learn everything from cooking to banking to how to have a relationship with someone other than their "Fortnite" friends.

There's a free version of this class, too. It's called life. Sooner or later everyone takes it, and the vast majority, thank goodness, pass.

But the cheat sheet is simply this: Start younger.

Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of "Has the World Gone Skenazy?" To learn more about Lenore Skenazy ([email protected]) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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