Resigning as the Fix-It Mom
By Beth K. Vogt
I like the “Do this, don’t do that” moments of mothering.
You know what I mean – the easy times when I don’t face hard choices about what I should tell my children to do.
- Stay inside and watch another TV show or go outside and ride bikes? Bikes.
- Brush your teeth or skip the dental hygiene and go to bed? Brush.
- Speak kindly to family members or act like you’re a smart aleck child star of a sitcom? Be kind.
As my children left the preschool years behind, the “Do this, don’t do that” moments decreased as their lives became more complicated. Being a mom wasn’t about telling them what to do or not do. My son and daughters were no longer concerned with just choosing TV shows – they were choosing friends. They were no longer just interacting with family – they were spending time with kids whose families weren’t cookie cutter copies of our family.
Conflict was inevitable for my kids:
“He makes me so mad, Mom. He tries to get me in trouble with the teacher all the time.” “One day she’s my friend and then the next day she won’t play with me at recess.”
“That boy said I looked stupid in my new glasses.”
When my kids were hurt, my knee-jerk reaction was to draft a new “Do this, don’t do that” list and fix their problems. After all, isn’t that what moms do? Fix things?
Over the long haul of motherhood, I’ve learned I’m not the designated “Fix-It” Mom. Sometimes – most times – the best thing I can do to help my child is to not step in and fix their problem. Instead, I need to come alongside them and help them figure out what to do.
Curious to see what other moms had to say, I posted this question on my Facebook page: When do you step in and “fix” your kids’ problems – and when do you let your child work through the challenge? As the comments piled up, several key principles appeared:
- Find the balance between being your child’s advocate while helping them express their feelings and ideas about how to resolve a problem with a friend.
- Encourage your child to consider how someone else feels and why he or she feels that way.
- Ask questions, don’t immediately supply answers. You’ll be surprised by your child’s insights.
- When in doubt, talk to other moms, family members, teachers or a trusted counselor about how you can best help your child.
- If your child is in emotional or physical danger – step in. No one should face bullies alone.
Beth K. Vogt and her husband experienced a double-dose of parenthood – three children in their 20s and a surprise fourth in their 40s. The author of “Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35,” Beth edits "Connections" and is a consulting editor to "MomSense" magazine.