Parenting

How to Stop Reacting to Your Child’s Pleading Texts

Forgotten homework. Instrument. Water bottle. PE Uniform. Lunch. Cell phone. And the list goes on.

You name it and our kids will forget it. And then they’ll want us to deliver it.

How do we respond, instead of react, to their pleas for help?

I was driving my triplets to high school, when my son sitting shotgun gasped, “Oh no, I forgot my paper sitting on the printer!” As he voiced this, my mind began scrambling scenarios of how I could get his needed item to him. Before I could conjure up a working plan in my head, he said, “I’ll have to run in the library and reprint it quick I guess. I’m so glad we can print things off at school.”

Problem solved by the person who had the problem.

My son’s first instinct wasn’t to involve me in solving his dilemma for him. He came up with his own solution and never knew that I was plotting in my head how I might be able to come to the rescue. Thank goodness I kept my mouth shut.

We parents have a habit of swooping in for the rescue instead of allowing our child the space to problem solve on their own.

If every high school would implement this policy, we would all be better off. But why did this principal’s simple message posted on Facebook create animosity? Why is my viral post on walking away from doing things for our teens doing the same thing?

Because some parents view teaching kids problem-solving skills as unloving, when I believe the opposite is true.

How do you discern when to bail your kid out and when to let natural consequences be their guide?

When our children bought their cell phones, we set a boundary about not using them as an SOS to Mom and Dad to bring forgotten items to school. Not because we don’t love them, but because it’s too easy to allow our kids to fall into the habit of texting us for help instead of problem-solving on their own.

Have you spelled out your family rules for your children that own cell phones?

If your child has a cell phone in hand, it’s a guarantee that they will reach out and hope you can swoop in to save them. They can’t help themselves. It’s simply way too convenient to do.

Here’s how I discern when to bail my kid out and when to let natural consequences be their guide:

Run their request through these six quick filters before you respond.

  • Can I deliver the forgotten item?
  • Is this item a want or a true need?
  • What is the state of our relationship? Could showing grace do us some good?
  • Is this a habit or expectation my child has of me?
  • Could this be a good teaching opportunity?
  • Should I still deliver this?

It doesn’t matter if you CAN come to the rescue, the issue is if you SHOULD.

Serving our child best sometimes means letting them feel the pain and recovering from their mistake on their own. Other times it may mean delivering the goods, if it’s really needed and you want to show your love in this way.

My son forgot to bring his tech charger one day when he had a debate competition after school. He needs his technology charged to compete, so his forgotten item was really important. I rearranged my afternoon in order to get this to him. Why?

  • Because his charger was truly a need and not a want.
  • He has never forgotten this before.
  • I wanted to do it for him because he’d had a stressful week.
  • Relationships are about give and take.
  • I didn’t feel provoked or expected to do it.

Our children do need opportunities to see that mistakes are a natural part of life and that they can get through the uncomfortable disappointments without having to desperately text Mom or Dad to bail them out. If they are allowed to feel the pain of their own mishaps once in awhile, kids will learn coping skills that will serve them well in the real world.

Daughter Dear forgot her order envelope at home on school picture day. Bing. “Mom, I forgot my order form at home.” Her text put me right into rescue mode. What do I do? Can I bring it? Should I? I really want those pictures. I could just run the envelope up to school.

Instead, I texted, “Oh no!”

Does this mean that I’m not going to have a tangible 8th-grade picture of my daughter now?

She texts back that she’ll just do retakes.

Problem solved by the person with the problem.

How do you discern when to bail your kid out and when to let natural consequences be their guide?

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Amy Carney
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A former sports journalist and editor, Amy Carney currently writes on her blog www.amycarney.com as well as for various online and print outlets about intentional parenting and family life. Amy and her husband, Keith, are busy raising teenage triplet sons, a subsequent teen daughter and a son they adopted from foster care.

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