If I were to survey parents and ask whether they’d rather have their teens grow up to be successful or responsible, most would answer “Both.” Yet many parents don’t realize what problems they cause by sacrificing one for the other.
Take, for example, the mom who spots the school project left behind on the dining room table after her teen has left for school. She knows that the project will count for a large part of the grade, and she doesn’t want her son to get anything less than an A, so she scoops it up and drops it off at school.
Other examples include students staying home from school on the day a project or paper is due in order to finish it, because they didn’t get it done the night before; parents persuading teachers to give students grades higher than what they’ve earned; and parents making excuses for teens’ misbehavior (or telling their teens they didn’t deserve the consequences they received).
These are well-meaning parents who want their kids to get into good schools so they can pursue their career goals. Yet they don’t realize that in the long run they are doing more harm to their kids than good by smoothing out their paths.
When parents offer easy solutions for their teens’ lapses in responsibility, the teens learn a dangerous lesson: “If I drop the ball, there will be somebody there to bail me out.” Students who get rescued by parents don’t learn accountability, self-reliance, or responsibility – three characteristics which are important for success as adults.
Allowing teens to experience the natural consequences of their mistakes doesn’t even qualify as “tough love” – it’s just good parenting. If we want our teens to be successful adults, we have to first teach them to be responsible teens. And that can’t be done by bailing them out.