“Dad, I forgot my soccer bag, can you go home and get it?” To a parent, those are perhaps the most annoying words that can be spoken by a child. And I got to hear them a week ago! My internal response? “Yes, let me drop everything I’m doing and solve your problem.” My external response? Eye roll, deep sigh, and “I’ll think about it.” This is a perfect example of a constant challenge I think we all face as parents. How involved should we be in our child’s school life?

I had occasion to ponder this question recently as I came upon a blog post from Dr. Tim Elmore that he wrote back in February. I’m a fan of Dr. Elmore’s work, and a phrase he uses a lot rings true with me – “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” An idea he presented in this post was applicable to my “soccer bag dilemma”. Dr. Elmore says to “talk to your kids as if you expect them to be problem solvers, not the adults.” It’s not my job to finish Aaron’s homework, negotiate with his teacher for a better grade or an extension on a project, or lobby with his coach for more playing time. I need to serve as his guide, not his rescuer, so he can learn to manage his responsibilities and challenges. Of course I’ll always be there to answer his questions, listen to his frustrations, and console him when he fails. But I can’t take his agency and responsibility away from him. If you want to read Dr. Elmore’s full post you can find it here.

And as for that soccer bag, I did go back home and get it. At our house we have a “once per year” pass where we’ll bring something one of our kids forgot. But that night I explained to Aaron that was not happening again, and we talked about strategies he could use to be sure not to forget it again. Now it’s up to him.