I'm a big believer in letting kids suffer the natural consequences of their actions.
This is why mid-February, after telling my son it was cold outside and that he should wear a coat, I -- gasp -- actually let him leave the house without one. In the middle of winter. Yes, I knew he was going to get cold. Yes, I knew I was going to be judged by about 97 grandmas who thought I should "put a coat on that boy." But, after choosing not to wear a coat and then spending the afternoon running in and out of stores at a chilly 26 degrees, Michael suddenly realized the value of my advice and that he would have been wise to follow it. So much more effective than forcing his arms down the coat sleeves every single time we left the house.
Besides, contrary to what seems to be the belief of everyone on this planet, no five-year-old is going to freeze to death in the thirty seconds between the heated car and the heated store.
But once I made the mistake of mentioning this philosophy on Facebook and unleashed the furor of a bunch of horrified moms who YELLED at me because letting my kid out of the house without a coat was going to make him SICK and that only a BAD PARENT would ever do such a thing.
So here is my public service announcement for the day: Being cold for a few minutes of your life will not make you sick. But having your mother protect you from the consequences of every unwise decision will cause problems for you.
It is my job to make sure my kids grow up to be responsible adults who know how to take care of themselves, and they won't learn how to do that if I take it upon myself to save them from every little consequence of their actions. Yes, it is my responsibility to make sure my children have coats to wear, and if we're going tubing in the mountains the choice is "wear a coat" or "you don't get to go" -- no in between. But a little lesson frozen in my five-year-old's mind at 26 degrees in the parking lot goes much further toward producing an independent adult than saying, "Oh, you're cold? I thought you would be so I put your coat in the car just in case." Translation: Don't trouble yourself, Mom will solve all of your problems.
This is not to say we should never be compassionate towards our children -- there are times when every parent should pull a spare jacket out of the trunk. But as parents we are often too compassionate. We hover, we fix, we intervene, we obsess. We take our kids to school when they miss the bus because of dawdling without any expectation that they will have to compensate us for our trouble. We swoop in with a coat whenever they get cold rather than letting them be responsible for themselves. We give them trophies just for breathing, make sure they never lose at anything, and jump in to save them from bad grades. And then we wonder why they move back home at 30, totally unprepared for any real responsibility and completely incapable of handling the least bit of disappointment or discouragement.
So you'll have to forgive me if you see my son without a coat. I'm trying to be a "bad" parent.
Please don't interrupt.