Stealing from Kids

Hi Readers! This gem of an essay was found on page 4 of a newsletter from the Brookwood Elementary in Leawood, KS. Kudos to the anonymous author! – L.

Are You Stealing from Your Children? by Anonymous

I watched the other day as a parent came into the building with her (very capable) child. As the child stood idly by, mom carefully put everything in his locker neatly, reminding him that he had his lunch on top there, easily retrievable, and hanging up his coat for him as well.

The child, looking bored, leaned up against the lockers as his mom loosened his boots, took them off, put them in the locker, and tied on the school shoes. Mom then took the gloves and coat off, reminding the child that the gloves were now carefully placed in the pockets, and stored them in he locker. XOXOXO, and he’s off to… you might think Kindergarten but no — several grades up! Even Kindergarten would be a stretch at this point in the year.

When children have no need to do things for themselves, what do you think will happen over time? When children know their parents will do everything for them, what message did the parent send? And when their peers see this happening, do they see the child as independent and a “can do,” capable person? They may see incapable, they may see lazy, or they may think that the parent is being fooled.

What I see is a parent stealing an opportunity from a child – an opportunity for an independent, shared relationship going forward. If you are doing something for your child that s/he could do for himself (and it’s not “just this one time”), give that some thought…who really needs to have that done, the child or you?

118 Responses

  1. About ten years ago at parents evening for year 3 (children who will be 8 in that school year) I had to have a very subtle word with a parent (she was a school governor) about the fact that she came in every morning to the cloakroom and did many of the things you have just referred to. The children did not have lockers but drawer in the class room and she would put stuff in there too. She was most surprised when I told her most of the other children did all of this themselves and that X would like the opportunity to do them too. In many schools in UK parents of Keystage 2 children (from year 3 upwards are not encouraged to enter the children’s cloak room. meetings with the teacher are made via the office.

  2. That story makes me think of the girl in the Secret Garden, who couldn’t even dress herself at, what, 8 years old? Very sad.

  3. My 4 year old son goes to a private preschool (many of the students are only 3 1/2) and I was actually a little suprised on the first day when the teacher announced that this would be the only day that parents would be permitted into the classroom to help settle the children and say goodbye. After the first week of class, she even demanded that all students enter the classroom with coats zipped up and mittens, hats and backpacks on. She wanted the children to learn right away that these things are their own responsibility. Within a week most students were able to manage by themselves and had even learned to zip up their own coats. At 3 and 4 years old, they are more than capable of these tasks when given the opportunity. It may be a small step – but it is an important one – towards their own independence and self confidence.

  4. I remember at the parents’ kindergarten orientation session (kids go to junior kindergarten at age 4 and many schools have full day, alternate day school at this age), a mother saying that she still fed her son his lunch. What would he do when he got to kindergaren? One of the teachers said, “I am BEGGING you to please stop now. Please. He’s old enough to feed himself.”

  5. I just don’t understand this! From the time my kids could talk they were always asking to do things themselves. “No, I want to do it!” was their favorite phrase and guess what I let them!

  6. Don’t kid yourself. I teach high school (all boys) and I regularly see Moms coming into the school, particularly at the start of the year, opening and setting up the locker, getting books from book store and the like. These are 15 & 16 year old boys… how… emasculating? Maybe a strong word, but that is how I feel. My daughter has ADD-ADHD up the wazoo, but she would rather cut off her right hand than allow me to run her like that. Rightly so.

  7. I love this. Sometimes I do “steal” from my small children because I’m in a hurry and they are so slow. I think this description will really help me think twice about when it’s truly necessary for me to do it for them. That said, they’re pretty independent, mainly thanks to genes. They won’t let me do a whole lot for them.

  8. Amen! Just, Amen!!! It’s stealing our children’s competence! My son could crawl up into his car seat and buckle himself in by the time he was 18 months old and then I would just check it and tighten if necessary, usually not necessary. His best friend was the same age and would go limp like a noodle as soon as I opened the door because his mother wouldn’t let him touch *anything*. It just progressed from there. My son is 16, cooks all his own meals, does his own laundry, is responsible for his own schedule and if I died tomorrow he would be perfectly fine. And we get along great! He loves to think of new things to cook and try stuff out. I don’t refuse to cook for him, we just eat different things. He’s a 16 year old athlete and I’m an old lady. If I ate what he eats I’d weigh 300 lbs and if he ate what I eat he would fall over from lack of calories.

    I think really it comes down to this – most parents I know these days make their decisions based on what relieves their anxiety instead of what gives the kid the best future. The problem with anxiety is that it never diminishes by accommodating it, it just picks something else to land on. Thus the ever spiraling hysteria. The question is always – what gives my son the best life, not what would make me feel more comfortable.

  9. “Stealing an opportunity from a child” — what a disarming way to put it! Just about sums up the whole free-range kids philosophy, that.

  10. A friend told me, with approval, of her son’s third grade teacher (mostly eight-year-old children), who insisted from the beginning that if the kids forgot their homework or their lunches they were not allowed to call home for them. One bad grade or one missed meal would not do any harm, and were a very effective reminder that such things were the child’s responsibility, not the parent’s. She said her son gained a lot of self-confidence and responsibility that year.

    Would that even be allowed today? My daughter’s school had a policy of providing lunch for children who forgot theirs, which I always thought a mistake. There are very, very few children for whom missing one meal has any greater consequence than a slightly uncomfortable feeling — great for reinforcing the lesson.

  11. I can’t imagine fussing that much over a kid in elementary school. I may help my kids a little in a rush, but they need to do things on their own, and it saves me the trouble of doing it for them.

  12. This is why there are so many 9 and 10 year olds who can’t tie their shoes.

  13. This morning I woke up about 10 minutes before the bus came. I started to panic because we had been out late at my son’s cub scout banquet last night and neglected to do homework. I ran out to the living room where I found my son ready for school and watching a movie. I told him he needed to read his story to me (1st grade homework). He tells me he already read it to his sister. I see her 3rd grade homework done on the table, and go in her room where she confirms that her brother read the book to her. I was so proud of them, without anyone to tell them they knew everything to do right down to emptying the trash cans. Of course I did have to run up to the school because as I was going through my own stack of papers later in the morning I found a field trip form my son had given me last week that was due today! Maybe I could learn something from them 🙂

  14. **most parents I know these days make their decisions based on what relieves their anxiety instead of what gives the kid the best future.**

    Excellent, excellent statement.

  15. That sort of behavior would never be tolerated in German schools. Even preschoolers (ages 3-6) have to hang up their own jackets and snowsuits, put their boots in the right place, and put on their school shoes when they get to preschool. The kids have to know how to put on their jackets, snowsuits, hats, gloves, and boots, though the teachers will help the 3 and 4-year-olds with zippers. Kids are responsible for knowing where their clothing is. They learn quickly to put their gloves into a pocket, where they’re easily found. Each child has his own hook for his jacket and backpack and very quickly learns which one is his. The kids also have to go into their backpacks and get their snacks on their own. The kids who eat the school lunches have to clear their plates and put them into the dishwasher.

    One of the requirements for starting first grade in Germany is that kids should be able to tie their own shoes. If they can’t tie their shoes, then they must wear Velcro shoes. Teachers in elementary schools won’t assist with clothing or shoes because they expect kids to know how to dress themselves. The only exceptions are if there is a stubborn knot in a shoelace or if a zipper is stuck.

    In German elementary and secondary schools the kids aren’t allowed to call home if they forget something. They have to deal with the consequences. Earlier this school year my son forgot his pencil case and had to borrow a pen from a friend. He never forgot it again. Another time he forgot his drink. Now he knows to double check to see if he has it. It’s much easier for me to remind him to pack his pencil case and drink. But if he does it on his own, then he develops independence and a better understanding of cause and effect (I’m thirsty because I forgot to pack my drink).

  16. ha. I just blogged about this thing this week. I found several sources about teaching children independance and how important it is.

    I found that I *used* to included my baby/toddler with helping cooking, cleaning, folding etc but as I had more kids somewhere along the line it just became *easier* for me to do it all. I’ve had a revelation recently about how much more things my 10 and 8 year old need to do. A lazy mother is one that does everything for her children

    I found this list very helpful in giving me a guideline on what children *SHOULD* be able to do at certain ages. It truely shocked me, as I dont even like to do somethings on the list they suggest 11 year olds should know how to do!!

    I totally recommend this list if you want your children to become more accountable and learn to be independant

  17. […] link: Stealing from Kids « FreeRangeKids Related Posts:How Should Schools Handle Kids Who Show Up Without Lunch … I do worry that some […]

  18. Love & Logic phrases it this way — children need as many reminders as we give them.

    So many parents remind and remind and remind. Or, as the article so clearly states – do things for the child. It’s a shame.

    I’ve had to contact each one of my 8th grade son’s teachers to tell them NOT to cut my darling cherub any slack. They make assignments and he doesn’t turn them in. Then the teachers will give him an extra week or two to do the project instead of failing him right then and there. It’s tragic. How is my son going to learn that there are deadlines in the “real world” if he’s not expected to adhere to them now?!

    He’s currently failing PE because he forgot to bring his uniform too many times. I’m thankful. I’d rather he learn this lesson in 8th grade instead of being fired from a job as an adult. I just hope the message gets through.

  19. When our boy first started going to preschool, he wouldn’t let the teachers take him out of the car. Every day I had to park and walk him in.

    After months of this, I finally realized that he’d been ready to do it on his own for a couple of weeks, and that I was the one keeping it going. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize when we are doing things for ourselves and not our kids.

  20. Wow I was just experiencing this the last 2 days, at a daycare I’m substituting at. I’m in with the 3-5 year olds and getting ready to go outside and play currently involved the boots, snow pants, mittens etc. Holy frack, I was just dumbfounded when I saw the lack of motivation these kids had for getting ready, and conversely, taking things off after coming it (so it wasn’t even the “I don’t want to go out” mentality). The staff commented that it was just ridiculous that the kids didn’t do anything for themselves and struggled daily to get the kids to be more independent. Kids immediately stated “I need help” before they even made it to their cubbies, or had taken off their indoor shoes , or taken their stuff out of the cubbies. Out of 15 kids, I saw 3 that consistently tried, and were intrinsically motivated to get themselves ready for outdoors (or coming back in). These kids wouldn’t even undo their velcro shoes, pull off their boots, put a hat on… and when I would start a zipper and tell them to finish it, most of them just looked at me stupidly for several seconds before they tried. They expected to be stood up from sitting, by an adult, to take snow pants off.. just stood with arms out to put on coats.. It was just mind blowing! And this is after being there for months with staff that regularly encourage and expect them to do things for themselves.But, you see the parents dropping the kids off, and the child standing like a lump while mom, dad, grandma etc undresses them like a doll. When I was 4 my brother taught me to tie my shoes in a 10 minute lesson, on our way out the door because he got tired of me asking him to… I’m no genius so I don’t think it’s that big an expectation, for a child to at least know how to put on and take off their velcro shoes!

  21. I like those chores in the link. Unfortunately, I can’t take my kids with me when I vote anymore because voting is entirely by mail in my state.

    I would have my kids load the dishwasher, except that it is old and prone to falling when fully loaded. I don’t want to deal with the tears (theirs or mine) when dishes get broken. It is easier if I break them myself.

    But, that said, my husband never had to pick his clothes up off the floor as a child, or put his dishes in the sink after dinner. It drives me nuts because I came from a family that everyone, male and female were expected to do those things. I want my kids to have as stress free of marriages as they can!

  22. Sometimes I think kids play dumb. I went skating with kids today and most of them wanted me to lace up their skates, even the older kids. I told the older kids that I would show them how, but then they would have to finish it up. When we were done skating, many kids wanted me to untie the laces and help them take them off. Ah… I don’t think so. Yes, skates can be difficult, but they all are capable of doing this. Knots are a different story. Kids need to do for themselves. We are not doing our kids any favors by doing their work for them.

  23. At our school parents are not allowed in the classrooms after the first week of school. Kids from kindy on up take their lunches out of their backpacks, put them in the lunch wagon, hang up their jackets and backpacks and go sit down.

    They are all perfectly capable individuals!

  24. Some mothers love having children more than they their children. They can talk to other people about what a great mother they are, how wonderful their kids are in school, love being seen as perfect, and not care so much about the kid except as a reflection of them. Why else not let the kid be an individual person?

  25. I like how the German schools do it!

  26. We were at my 9 year old son’s hockey tournament last weekend and one kid didn’t have his jersey. His mom forgot to bring it. That’s right; his mom! I wanted to ask her why she was in charge of bringing the jersey, but I kept quiet. I’m just amazed. My son packs his own bag and is so careful about not forgetting anything because he knows that there’s no backup; if he forgets, it’s his fault and nobody’s going to rescue him. He carries his own hockey bag and sticks.

  27. This is why my boys are in Montessori. One of their greatest joys is to show me something new they’ve learned to do on their own. I can’t imagine stealing that from them.

  28. i would be interested to know if these children that are waited on are only children……….i have three kids and cant imagine a parent would continue do do this multiple times, then again, stranger things have happened.

  29. Reading over that list of chores, some seem too early, and others make me think, “Really? You’d wait that long?” It’s still very helpful and I’ll be using it to try out new things with my kids and find out if they can do them.

  30. Sometimes I worry that I expect the boy to do too many things for himself. Then I read letters like this one and realize, that I’m supposed to give him age and maturity appropriate responsibility.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  31. I work at a middle school (6,7,8 grades) and a student today asked me if it was 9:00am yet. I told the student, “no, it’s quarter of” and in all seriousness he asked again, “but is it 9:00 yet?” I then told him it’s 15 more minutes until 9am.

    I think do we not only do too much for our kids, young and old, but we are miserably failing them at the same time.

  32. When my daughter was three, I brought her to her first day of preschool. When we got out of the car, I asked her if she had her luncbox. “No, you get it Mama” she implored. I looked at her and said “it’s your lunch, not mine, and it’s your school, not mine, so you are just going to have to get your lunch and carry it or else you’ll be hungry. I’m not doing it for you” There were some men roofing the building, and they all stopped and applauded. I never thought of it as strange – I’m HUGE on letting the kids be responsible for themselves (I do allow ONE missed backpack/lunch at school per year…after that they are on their own) but I’ll never forget those roofers actually applauding what I thought was common sense.

  33. once i had a class of 6 one year olds 3 were almost 2 i had one that was 19 months one that was 14 months and another that was 16months and my little one year olds ent to their cubbies and got their own blankets for nap time and would also get their own drinks from the refrigerator i had to put a lock on it b/c they were that independent . the parents seems to think atherwise and the youngest ones were still being handfed baby food by their former teacher and the parents though i was insane for asking that they bring in real food for their children to eat because i would not hand feed the kid when they were perfectly able to feed themselves.
    Another time when i had 3 – 5 year olds i wouldn’t do anything for them they had to do for themselves and for each other my 5 year olds would tie the 3 year olds shoes b/c i taught the five year olds how and then expected them to use their knowledge to help their friends and to get in more practice. they even had to change their own pull ups if they wet them b/c the school was potty trained only so i wasn’t supossed to be changing diapers anyways i would just watch from the door and gave instructions if needed. and that was the best time i had with a group. they were even able to take them selves from the playground to the bathroom and back outside with out a police escort which seems to be the norm in childcare if one kid has to go then the whole class has to line up and go with them….
    Right now im training new class of three year olds whose former teacher did everything for them including folding 20 blanket after nap and putting them perfectly into the cubbies. i let it be know that i don’t have time for that they bput away their blankets and their mats all by themselves or they ask a friend for help it makes for a less stressful transition from nap to snack…

  34. I wish I could completely agree with this, but I have a very high functioning autistic child. I can think of a number of times recently I’ve carefully stowed his gloves in his pocket and reminded him verbally where they were while he stood by passively.

    The thing is, he is very attached to his gloves. VERY attached. When he loses them, his life tends to get pretty bleak.

    Most parents, on seeing my son, do not realize he’s autistic. They think I’m over-mothering him. What I am doing in reality is ensuring that YOUR son doesn’t come home with bite marks all over himself because MY son can’t find his gloves.

    Unless you know for absolutely sure that that “overly mothered” child is not autistic, than you need to think twice about certain kinds of judgements.

  35. When my son was 12 he went to a 3 week sleep away summer program. He had to learn to do laundry. I taught him before he left and he’s been doing it ever since. When my daughter turned 12 I taught her too. Now if her favorite jeans aren’t clean, guess who’s fault it is? Not mine!

    They’ve been making themselves simple food for years now. When my son was 8 or 9 he had a friend over and I told them to make themselves pb&j sandwiches for lunch. His friend did not know how to spread peanut butter on a piece of bread. My son had to do it for him. When they were little I made them eat whatever I had made for dinner. Now that they’re older if they don’t like it they can make themselves something to eat.

    The kids have assigned chores daily, unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, cleaning their bathroom. Now that my son is older he helps mow the lawn, take out the trash and shovel the snow. All of these things literally take only minutes out of their day but it is a huge contribution to the family.

    My job as a parent is to make them independant adults. The hover mothers need to get another hobby.

  36. I’ve always been big on self-reliance, but it takes a ton of patience – patience with my kids, and even more patience with other people who want to “help” my kids! Ugh! But every day since my kids started preschool at 2.5, I insisted that they hang up their coats and all that jazz. And if they will not zip their zippers, they can experience the cold. The shoe tying is the biggest frustration nowadays. One of my kids will tie hers loosely (because she gets distracted or wants to tick me off, I don’t know) and when they inevitably come untied throughout the day, adults will tie them for her. I would not have gone out of my way to buy shoes with laces if I didn’t want my kids to tie the laces.

    My kids also take pride in being able to do stuff for themselves – at least while it’s a novelty.

    I think some parents and teachers think I am really a hag because I will make my kids take time away from “fun stuff” to complete tasks that I could easily complete much faster for them. Or tell them that if they aren’t ready in X minutes, they can carry their coats through the snowstorm because I’m not putting them on. But in the long run, it’s better for them to take care of their stuff so I can focus on higher level stuff during our time together.

  37. This evening we were at a restaurant and my 4-year-olds decided they wanted to go to the restroom. They decided to share the handicapped stall (we were the only ones there). When they were finished, the lock to the stall was stuck. They each tried it and then said, “Mom, we can’t open the lock.” To which I said, you are going to have to do it, because I can’t reach it from here. “Let’s climb under,” one of them suggested. To which I said, “you may NOT leave the handicapped stall locked. You have enough brains to figure out that lock.” A pause, and then I heard, “let’s try it together. Teamwork, teamwork, everybody do your share . . . .” And they opened the door, and were pretty proud of it, too.

  38. Thanks for this excellent article and timely reminder. Since my daughter turned two I’ve been insisting she “help” me clean up her toys every day before naps and bed. Some days its so tempting to take the easy road and do it myself. Its good to remember that its always best to do the hard work up front and get them going on the road to independence. Next step: clearing the table. (good thing I’m not too attached to my dishes!)

  39. I think it’s interesting how a lot of people are talking about tying shoes. I learned in 2nd grade from my friend Rose, but apparently I was taught the “wrong” way (bunny ear style) and when I was showing a neighbor mom at a party that I could tie my own shoes and did it, she scolded me for doing it wrong and retied them the “right” way.

    I think it is easier for us to do things for our kids because we know how to do it quickly, or even because we’ve done it so many times it’s second nature, but that doesn’t mean our kids are doing them wrong. They just need time to figure out what works for them.

  40. This is why I’m glad our public school has a closed-door policy. Parents are not allowed to enter the building with their child (unless they’re signing them in late, etc.), they are dropped off at a door where a teacher lets them in. Same drill in the afternoon. I even get pissed off by the Kindergarten parents, when I drop mine off after lunch, that have to walk their child TO THE DOOR. Or pull up directly in front of the door before they let their child out. They can handle walking the 20 feet…

  41. RobynHeud, interesting that you should bring that up. I taught my kids the around-the-garden tying method. My youngest mastered it at 3. But then at some point she must have been acting helpless at school, because someone showed her the 2-bunny-ears method, and that’s her method of choice now. I think she just wants to be contrary, but I don’t interfere (for now) as long as the dang shoes stay tied.

  42. My daughter turns two next month. She takes off her dirty clothes and puts them in the hamper. When she spills something she gets a towel, wipes it up, and puts the towel in the hamper. She puts her dishes in the sink. She throws her trash (and sometimes our’s!) away. When she’s done with a bath she puts the toys away and pulls the plug to let the water out. I refuse to have a helpless child!

  43. I want to edit my last sentence: “I refuse to *raise* a helpless child” is more of what I mean.

  44. This kind of stuff use to drive me nuts at the daycare i worked at, i didn’t stay there long. when working in the infant room at clean up time i would put the used toy bucket on the floor and the babies would help if they wanted, when they did i would clap and give them hugs. cleaning was a fun thing for them. at lunch the ones who are able to feed themselves i would allow them to. as long as some food was making it in to them and they were full i see no point of doing it for them. ( i would feed them a few spoonfuls just to be sure food was getting in).Well after about 2 weeks i got called in for a meeting, management didn’t feel it was age appropriate for babies to be cleaning. and at lunch i should be feeding all of them because it makes less mess. All the children get washed up, and sometimes it meant washing out there hair. and after lunch they nap so i have 2 hours to clean high chairs, floors,etc. I didn’t change the way i ran the room. and they backed off when 2 of my babies moved to the toddler room and the teachers noticed that they were sitting and feeding themselves, and already helping at clean up time.

    The sad thing even in the older classes with the 4-5 year-old the teachers do everything get the kids dressed/undressed, clean up after them, if the children wanted more water at lunch the teacher had to get it in case the child spilled it. and they only fill it a little bit. I felt bad for the kids when i left.

  45. What I am doing in reality is ensuring that YOUR son doesn’t come home with bite marks all over himself because MY son can’t find his gloves.

    If that’s likely to happen, that’s not on. Not even close. Your child does not belong in a situation where he is likely to attack other children without being duly provoked.

  46. @Sue –and insisting that children learn to get themselves in and out of their coats, boots, etc. as soon as they are able, has the very practical effect that it enables the teachers to get a group of some 20 odd preschoolers outside into the fresh air to run around and play every. single. day. Something German preschools find (thank goodness!) to be more or less imperative. Might be controversial to say so, but that is especially kind to little boys imho.

  47. Very well written and right to the point!

    So long,

  48. I agree with the original author to some extent, but Marcy makes a comment worth paying attention to. Many parents do things for children who are perfectly capable of doing them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve waited while my kids struggle with some task I could do by myself in a fraction of the time, but I believe it’s important for them to learn to care for themselves.

    However, I have a son who has some of the same issues Marcy’s child does. When he was four I tried to teach him to zip his own jacket. This resulted in screaming tantrums every day for a week. Finally I realized he just couldn’t do it yet. He would try over and over and over and over and get so frustrated that he would lash out. After that I’ve been more careful about waiting to teach him things and judging other parents who help kids. My son did learn to zip his jacket a year or two later than most kids. He’s just learning to tie his shoes at age seven. He works incredibly hard, and it is so much harder for him than for other kids (including my daughter, who learned those skills very early).

    So yes, it can be a huge problem when parents hover and don’t let their kids do things for themselves. But be careful of judging too quickly; there are sometimes reasons for it that aren’t immediately apparent.

  49. But be careful of judging too quickly; there are sometimes reasons for it that aren’t immediately apparent.

    A brilliant statement, applicable to all of life. Like the woman, whose handicap is real and debilitating but invisible, being excoriated by a fellow driver for parking in a reserved parking spot. Or the waitress who seems distracted and doesn’t respond to our needs quickly enough: maybe she’s just lazy, but maybe she’s distracted by the fact that her mother was just in a serious car accident. We need to cut each other a little slack (or a lot.)

    It’s great to have general discussions like this; they can be very inspiring and open doors for ourselves and our children that we didn’t think possible. The problem comes when we then pass specific judgement on particular people’s childrearing decisions. If we are good friends with the family, a gentle suggestion is not out of place, but beyond that I think we should mind our own business.

    What I would expect of a school is that it fully support my decision to have my children do for themselves anything they cando for themselves, e.g. not tie their shoes for them if I’ve informed the teacher that they are fully capable of doing so. (If the teacher says she’s too busy to remember who can, and who can’t tie shoes, I’d find a new school.)

    And if I were running a school, I’d expect a high level of competence of the children, but at the same time I’d welcome individual exceptions from parents who explain to me privately the need for a particular intervention. It’s wrong to handicap a whole class to accommodate the needs of one particular child, but it’s important to make exceptions as needed. We would expect to give extra help with a jacket to a child with a broken arm. The “broken arms” in a child with autism are different, but just as real.

    I think the best we can do as parents is bring up our children the way we think right, to find appropriate support (e.g. a school that doesn’t undercut our policies, and a forum like this one for sharing ideas), and to bite our tongues when we see other parents whose choices do not coincide with ours. There may be extenuating circumstances; they may actually be right and have something to teach us; they may have an approach that is different from ours but also valid; they may be on the way to seeing the situation the way we do, but haven’t come as far as we have yet. Or they may be completely wrong — but even in that case, it is their business, not ours, unless we are willing to befriend and support them instead of merely passing judgement.

  50. i teach riding to small children[4 year and up] and while i don’t expect the youngest to catch the ponies out of a crowded paddcock, they do start learning. what i do ecxpect is once they learn where the equipment and brushes are kept that they get the ponies stuff out by themselves. by the time their 7 or 8 they can tack up under supervision[we are talking about 500 to 800 lb animals here] get their own boots on and mount up. the number of parents who think their child can’t do this is incredible. there are times i have to suggest that they go in the lounge to “warm up” just so the kids don’t start channeling the parents and saying” but i can’t i;m too little”. my response is if their too little to do the prep or clean up, you’re too little to ride. end of complaining.

  51. My daughter’s pre-k has a drop-off lane in the morning. A teacher meets the car at the door, helps the child out of the car and the child walks to their classroom by himself where he is expected to hang up his coat, wash his hands, fill up his water bottle and sign in. There are parents who still refuse to use the drop-off lane and insist on walking their kids into class and helping them hang their coats and wash their hands. We are 7 months into school. Clearly, these children know where their classroom is by now and are not going to get lost and unwittingly spend the day in the infant room (although maybe the parents would be happier if they were there).

    And no, I don’t think there is any reasonable reason for this. Walking to a classroom in a daycare center does not take a skill that any 4-5 year old can’t master.

  52. I do walk my 4-year-olds to their class because I want to. That’s where we say goodbye, and I peek through the window to see what the teacher is doing and what the mood is that particular morning. It gives us material for dinnertime discussions later. I wouldn’t automatically assume that this is because of coddling.

  53. Ah gee……..
    But there is so much…um, invested in that there commodity, don’tcha know –
    It’s kinda sad, what with all that history about each successive generation doing better than its forebears, teddy bears, but who cares…………

    There is an awful lot of angst going on out there these days about how those kiddies will do when all growed up – some 10% of the lil’ darlin’s will compete for the crumbs left them…something awful wrong with that picture.

    Sure a 9 to 1 ratio sucks…when the only alternatives are big box retail and fast food flop jobs.

    But when folks compensate by treating their kiddles like Grand Poobahs, Worshipped wimps, I can understand why that overfunctioning is going on, but yeah – it doesn’t fix the real problem, and it doesn’t do the kids any good.
    Lord, I would have hated growing up like that.

    Is necessity the mother of independent action?
    I mean, we do for ourselves what no-one else is around to do for us…expanding that outward is part of human development.
    “Doting” is what it is.
    Why would most intelligent people figure that this eventually spoils a kid, warps their sense of self-fulfilment?
    I remember my mother declaring two things:
    1 / She would not raise one more helpless man in the world who needed a female maidservant to stand behind his um, “success.”
    2/ Learning to cook was something my stomach would thank me for, forever….
    (and both of these items started at a pretty young age.)
    So navigating through simple tasks that I was just expected to get down with reasonable instruction, was just a matter of course.
    One of those simple tasks was conquering the fear of “I can’t do it!”
    But wow – when you conquer that endless line of little fears, I dunno – isn’t that what self esteem is? Isn’t that where it starts?

    Molly – you rock. Yer daughter oughta be a happy kid.

  54. When my kids were little I read this admonishment as ” You are eating your kid’s vegetables for them”.

    Pretty profound stuff.

  55. The most recent episode of Desperate Houswives adressed this sam issue. Mom got mad at her college aged twin boys because they never do anything for themselves. She kicked them out of the house, then realize it was her fault for never letting them do anything for themselves.

  56. Sera, do you expect her to keep her kid home and away from all other people? Wouldn’t that be helicoptering in the worst sense? Autistic kids need to learn social manners just like other kids, and they need to practice. It can take them a little longer to figure out what’s appropriate, but they’re not going to learn because mommy says, “No you can’t do that,” they need to learn from experience.

  57. BeQui,

    The right of a child to have special needs ends where the right of another child to have basic needs begins.

    If an autistic or otherwise disabled child is liable to physically attack or otherwise harm other children, then yes, it should be kept in some way where it cannot. If it needs extra time, fine, extra space, fine, extra supervision, extra resources, etc, fine, fine, fine… but if it’s actually likely to attack its classmates due to unrelated circumstances in its life, it needs to be kept away from the potential victims, for everybody’s sake.

  58. So should all bullies be kept home until further notice?

  59. Especially in this particular instance, where we know he won’t bite kids if he knows where his gloves are. So rather than just remind him and go about her business, she should keep him home and not allow him to interact with others?

    I’m not trying to have a tone, by the way, I know it’s hard to tell through typing.

  60. About the autistic child biting – my read on this was that the mom took steps (by helping keep the boy organized) to greatly reduce the chance that the boy would get out of control. Assuming this works, it should be enough; and gradually he will develop the ability to deal with more and more uncertainty. There is no need to keep a child home if reasonable accommodations are sufficient to maintain peace.

    I mean, you would not want to meet my kid when she’s hungry. So I feed her periodically, and send her out into the world. If I didn’t feed her before sending her to play with your kid, then I would be out of line. (Not that she’d eat your kid, but your kid would not get warm, fuzzy feelings from the encounter.) Organizing a high-functioning autistic kid’s locker may be similar to my feeding my crabby-when-hungry kid.

  61. I think my other comment got blocked by the spam filter because it had a link in it. Can you please approve it?

  62. Tying your shoes with two loops or one really doesn’t matter. It makes the same type of knot. The one-loop method is faster for many people, and people tend to think of it as more grown-up, but in the end the type of knot is the same.

    However, if you want to avoid excessive untied shoelaces there are two things you might want to teach your child to do:

    1. Make sure you make a square knot, not a granny knot. I’m terrible at explaining this, but basically you want to picture that you’ve put a red marker line on ONE end of your shoelace. When you make your initial cross for tying your shoes the lace-end with the red marker line goes on top. Then, after you make your loop or loops, that end goes on top AGAIN.

    Or, more succinctly, it’s right-over-left, left-over-right. Most people do right-over-left, right-over-left, and then their bows hang askew and come untied too easily.

    This is explained with pictures here:

    2. The other thing you can do, for stubborner laces, is do a surgeon’s knot. You’re going to follow the same advice I gave above, but when you get to the point where you’re tucking the loops to make a knot you’re going to wrap them around TWICE.

    3. You should also be aware that round shoelaces come undone more easily than flat ones. For kids who have just learned to tie their shoes, it’s better to help them out with a lace that will, well, stay knotted.

    I myself never learned to tie my shoes until I was really advanced in age, but I had fine motor issues, and also am left-handed. (Left-handedness shouldn’t be a problem, but it makes it a bit harder to learn things from righties.) So I just took the laces out of my shoes, it was as easy as that.

    But even with that in mind, my jaw dropped a few months ago when I passed the grown-up with a first grade child sputtering disbelievingly that “Your teacher didn’t tie your shoes? That’s ridiculous!”

    People say that I say whatever I think, and that’s not exactly true, but I did say what I was thinking then – what’s *ridiculous* is expecting the teacher to tie the shoes of 25 seven-year-old children.

  63. My comment is awaiting moderation, I put in too many links. Lenore, help me out please? (Sometimes my waiting moderation comments never get unmoderated, and then I am distraught.)

  64. do not do for a child anything that they think they can do fo r themselves~Dr Maria Montessori

  65. Ah, Sera, I’m so glad you know everything about this child’s situation, the relevant portions of the law, and the various options that the family have considered to appropriately educate their child. I’m so glad you can expound on another child’s rights when you don’t even know what steps are being taken (an aide in the classroom strikes me as the most like) to help him succeed.

    Please, do keep talking.

  66. Sometimes letting them do for themselves results in serious failure. At that point, you have to make the hard decision whether to let them fail, or to step in.

    We have a problem with our fifth grader. When she was in 4th, she would regularly do her assignments, but they wouldn’t make it from her pack into the bin at school. We did everything we could to help her to figure out a way to do this herself. She and I met with her teacher, we suggested various methods to remember, etc. She never did figure it out, and we wouldn’t do it for her.

    Now in 5th grade, she’s gotten even worse. She forgets to bring homework home, forgets to check the assignment board, forgets to check the late assignment board, and has gotten way behind in homework–she had 10 late assignments to make up one weekend, and she blew off reading one book completely–she had to cram it in 2 days and turned in the assignment almost 2 weeks late (we told her she was really lucky she only lost 5% of the grade for tardiness, and that if we were her teacher it would have been much more–if we’d accepted it at all.)

    This is the first year that homework really counts as part of her grade, and we’ll start looking for junior high schools soon–her grades are starting to really matter. So, we had to make the hard decision to admit failure and step back in. We’ve told her we hate treating her like a second (or is first) grader, but we’ve given her a year and a half to figure it out on her own. For the last couple of weeks, several times a week, I go up to her classroom at the end of the day to check up on her. Usually, there will be something she left behind. Now, I’m just hoping that she will finally learn what she should have learned before, and I’ll be able to back off again soon.

    It’s not something I want to do, and I know she should be doing it herself, but she isn’t and she’s been getting worse, not better. Unfortunately, she needs a bit more hand-holding, at least (hopefully!) for a little while.

  67. From the time I was in 3rd grade, the teacher would punish me for not completing homework. She’d put a list of to-do’s on each child’s desk for stuff that was only 1 day late. But if it went one more day, I got swatted. This was more than enough for me to become fairly responsible. My parents were not involved.

    Now, my younger sister didn’t learn so fast. She once had 21 items on her “list” and the exasperated teacher gave her 42 swats (she never hit hard enough to hurt, but it was still humiliating). My parents found this out and gave her an additional 20 swats at home (you did NOT want your parents involved in school problems in those days). She got a clue after that. Homework was not our parents’ job.

    Class responsibilities should be between the student and the teacher. If a kid is having problems, perhaps the parents could arm the teacher with some acceptable consequences. I know swats won’t work nowadays, but there must be some creative alternatives out there – coupons, charts, chores, etc.

  68. @SKL – Except the class is not actually doing anything at drop off time. This is not daycare. This is a school day with specific hours functioning under the control of the local school board. Unless you bring your child in late (at which point the drop off lane is closed), you are not seeing anything about the day. And unless it’s an emergency the teacher is getting the kids ready to start the day and not chatting with parents.

  69. Thing is, Donna, she has a point. If you bring your kid to the door of the classroom when they’re small, that won’t do them any harm. If you like it, and they like it, and it’s permitted and not disruptive – why not?

    Nobody is ever going to 100% have their kid do everything independently in every situation every time. Humans are social critters anyway.

    Dropping the kid off in that way is kinda like having a lollipop. You don’t want your diet to be made of lollipops, but one now and again is probably okay. It’s when you’re also keeping them from tying their shoes (or finding an alternate solution) and not allowing them to play alone and doing their homework for them and feeding them their food that you’re getting creepy and weird. But any ONE of those things (except the feeding them, for most typical children – we never so much as fed the nieces baby food, because we were so darn lazy!) is fine and okay on its own.

  70. “Class responsibilities should be between the student and the teacher.”

    That would depend strongly on whether the teacher cares enough to go beyond talking to the student. That’s as far as our school ever goes.

  71. “We’ve told her we hate treating her like a second (or is first) grader, but we’ve given her a year and a half to figure it out on her own”

    What consequences did she face for failing to figure it out on her own? When she forgot to do her work or to turn it in, what personal loss did she suffer each and every time she forgot? Maybe it was not of any significance to her, and if there was some consquence that mattered to her, after 3 or 4 applications, it would have an effect?

    Of course, the first trick is to figure out what your kids ARE capable of doing for themselves. But once you have, as for the topic of doing things for them they ARE capable of doing – I can get lazy sometimes about that, and when I do, I think of my MIL and my husband. One day when my kids were about 3 and 5, and they were clearing their plates after dinner, as they habitually do because they have been taught to do so by me, my MIL said, “Wow, I never made my boys do that. I always thought it was easier just to pick up after them.” And I said, before I could put my foot in the mouth of my rudeness, “That explains a lot.” My husband has many wonderful virtues, but picking up after himself has never been among them, and this has been a bone of contention throughout our whole marriage. After years of complaining, when nothing changed, I just gave up and picked up after him too (picked his dirty clothes up off the floor and put them in the laundry, hung his coat and tie in the closet, put away the bowl full of milk left on the kitchen table in the morning, picked his wet towel up off the floor, cleaned the toothpaste and whiskers out of the sink, etc. ). I just gave up and started doing it. I couldn’t take it not being done, and saying “Why don’t you do this??” didn’t work.

    Interestingly enough, when I started training the children in these things – after about a decade of marriage – my husband started improving in them too. He got trained alongside them, I guess. I fear it would have been condescending and emasculating to have attempted to train him when we were first married, but with our kids, I suppose it can be done surreptitiously; he gets it like second hand smoke, I guess. It’s not his fault the training was skipped on him when he was a kid. But it makes me realize how hard those habits are to break in later life if you get used to someone doing for you for the first 17 years of life, and it made me realize really what a severe disservice I would be doing my kids (or at least their roomates) if I do what is simply the easier thing for me – to do it for them, rather than taking the time (and sometimes battle) to teach them to make it a habit for themselves.

  72. Sky, you make an interesting point. We’ve had a “houseguest” living here for over a year – he is in his 20s – and he was terribly pampered. My kids were just 3 when he moved in, and I would have really liked to be teaching them more about helping with housework, but how do you do that when someone 20 years their senior doesn’t give such things a moment’s thought? And when we finally started insisting on him doing a few light tasks (like empty the dishwasher), he acts like it’s so strenuous, and he’s such a wonderful guy for doing so much. I just found out he will probably be moving out soon, and I have to say that I am elated. Looking forward to getting my kids back on track.

  73. Oh, I’m too impatient to wait for my comment to be approved! So I’ll repost it sans links. The links came from Ian’s Shoelace Site, you can google for it.


    Tying your shoes with two loops or one really doesn’t matter. It makes the same type of knot. The one-loop method is faster for many people, and people tend to think of it as more grown-up, but in the end the type of knot is the same.

    However, if you want to avoid excessive untied shoelaces there are two things you might want to teach your child to do:

    1. Make sure you make a square knot, not a granny knot. I’m terrible at explaining this, but basically you want to picture that you’ve put a red marker line on ONE end of your shoelace. When you make your initial cross for tying your shoes the lace-end with the red marker line goes on top. Then, after you make your loop or loops, that end goes on top AGAIN.

    Or, more succinctly, it’s right-over-left, left-over-right. Most people do right-over-left, right-over-left, and then their bows hang askew and come untied too easily.

    This is explained with pictures here: Link removed!

    2. The other thing you can do, for stubborner laces, is do a surgeon’s knot. You’re going to follow the same advice I gave above, but when you get to the point where you’re tucking the loops to make a knot you’re going to wrap them around TWICE.

    Link also removed!

    3. You should also be aware that round shoelaces come undone more easily than flat ones. For kids who have just learned to tie their shoes, it’s better to help them out with a lace that will, well, stay knotted.

    I myself never learned to tie my shoes until I was really advanced in age, but I had fine motor issues, and also am left-handed. (Left-handedness shouldn’t be a problem, but it makes it a bit harder to learn things from righties.) So I just took the laces out of my shoes, it was as easy as that.

    But even with that in mind, my jaw dropped a few months ago when I passed the grown-up with a first grade child sputtering disbelievingly that “Your teacher didn’t tie your shoes? That’s ridiculous!”

    People say that I say whatever I think, and that’s not exactly true, but I did say what I was thinking then – what’s *ridiculous* is expecting the teacher to tie the shoes of 25 seven-year-old children.

  74. Uly, that’s interesting. But given my kid’s personality and the fact that this issue is recent, I think she’s just being a stubborn pain in the butt. She’s one of those very bright kids who thinks conforming is boring. (I must say I can relate up to a point.) That said, I am considering speaking to her teacher(s) about insisting that she tie her own shoes before moving on to the fun stuff. I know she has the ability to tie them right; now she needs the motivation.

    It is harder when you’re the only parent who cares about such things (at this age, anyway). A few months ago the teacher said “It blows my mind that she can tie her shoes.” I hate to pick on her though, because she’s pretty good about encouraging many independence skills.

  75. Ah, Sera, I’m so glad you know everything about this child’s situation…

    …Please, do keep talking.

    Even though you haven’t said the words, I can certainly detect terms like “bigot”, “ignorant”, and “ableist” in your tone. Hence, I will present my views in an open and non-confrontational way, for you to consider in a similarly non-confrontational way.

    I am in a certainly not unique, but probably fairly rare position, in that I have been on both sides of the coin. I have been both the student with a labeled diagnosis, and the more-or-less typical student on the receiving end of violence from special needs students.

    I received my diagnosis and the label that came with it at around 14 years old – that’s halfway through high school. For the first 10 years or so of my schooling, I was assumed to be neurotypical and treated as such. Because the symptoms I had were mild until exacerbated by the cruelty of my peers, neither my parents nor any of my teachers up to that point had noticed that anything was different.

    I do not speak from personal experience alone. I have observed very similar cases second hand, with (neurotypical and neuroatypical) children of my adult friends who are now going to school, with my younger brother several years ago when he was in primary school, and with a close friend of my family who has a son roughly the same age as me, who went through a very similar experience with schooling as I did. The circumstances that I have noticed are not limited to myself, the schools I attended, or even the general area I grew up in.

    When mainstream schools are made to deal with children who are not neurotypical, they deal with them very poorly. Your typical mainstream school does not have the resources. The teachers there do not have the time, the training, and quite often not even the inclination to deal properly with such children. The school does not treat the child as an individual human being, with individual problems and needs to be met. The school simply treats A Case Of Autism (or other relevant diagnosis). In my case, once I received my diagnosis, the school’s guidance counselor printed out a list of coping strategies relevant to that particular disorder and handed them out to all of my teachers. Most of these instructions were in no way relevant to me (e.g. they described my supposed lack of ability to cope with everyday situations that I’d been quite happily immersed in and coping with as well as the next child for years). Neuroatypical children in mainstream schools are round pegs that are shoved clumsily into square holes. You know those Zero Tolerance rules that are so often decried on this blog? The average school’s approach to a special needs child is as ham-fisted and unthinking as that.

    My second point is that when a child is neuroatypical, the child’s classmates are never made aware. This is due to rules to do with keeping that child’s privacy. This also has the unfortunate effect of the neurotypical children around the atypical child having absolutely no idea that that kid has special needs, and that they need to act accordingly. Children are often extremely cruel, especially to those they perceive as different, and will derive entertainment from provoking the neuroatypical child into breakdowns, tantrums and the like. The neurotypical kids won’t have any idea what autism (or other) is, or what it means for that child.

    Unfortunately, this leads to the neuroatypical children in these cases having an incredibly unpleasant time at school. This leads to frustration, and the frustration leads to disobedience, violence, outbursts, tantrums, breakdowns.

    Here is the other side of the coin.

    In almost any school’s handbook or other similar document, you’ll find a list of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Under this list you will find two matching dot points that say something along the lines of “I will not be violent or disruptive” and “I expect to have a safe and happy learning environment”. In your average school, these dot points are Law. If you hurt another student, if you threaten others, if you disrupt the classroom, you will be punished for it. If you persist in these, you will be removed from the school so that others may have a safe and happy learning environment.

    These rules, which are Law for everyone else, break down in the vicinity of a child with a labeled diagnosis who comes under the heading of “special needs”. These children are not punished the same as typical kids when they cause the classroom to become unsafe or unpleasant. For the typical children around them, most pertinently the ones who are the direct victims of a physical assault, this causes them to feel that justice is not done. A child who has transgressed is not punished. I can tell you, to a ten-year-old, this really shakes your view of Right and Wrong on its foundations. It begs questions such as “Why are we not treated the same?” “Why am I punished for fighting back when he is not?”, which ultimately leads into “Can I trust authority to right the wrongs that are done to me?” When I thought about this, as early as primary school, I realised that the answer to the last question is, No.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what circumstances lead to any child being disruptive or violent. What matters is the effect that this behaviour has on those around that child. Feeling threatened and unempowered and unsafe makes for a terrible learning environment, and a bad place for mental development. There is no feeling more unempowering than being effectively told “We will not punish the person who has hurt you. We will punish you for hurting them back. We will allow this situation to continue. You may not do anything about it. Accept it and stop bothering us.”

    Thus, for everybody’s sake, the special needs children need to be sent to the special schools that are equipped to handle them, where the teachers have the understanding, the training and the inclination to give the children there the help they need to grow into functioning adults. These environments can protect those children from the cruelty of the others who see the difference but don’t understand it (or care that they hurt others), and in doing so, helps the mainstream schools that don’t have the resources to cope with special needs and all that it entails.

    This is, in a nut shell (coconut shell), my reasoning for why a child that is liable to bite his classmates unprovoked needs to be removed from that situation. I am not suggesting that it needs to be forever – maybe he only needs to be delayed from entering mainstream school for an extra year to help build the appropriate social foundations.

  76. Sera, you’re not qualified to make that judgment about a child you don’t know and haven’t met. That’s the end of it. You don’t know how old this kid is (if he’s young enough, biting is something some of the NT kids may have tried as well), or how well putting his gloves in his pockets avoids the whole biting issue, or… frankly, anything about these people.

    I can tell you definitively, though, that your statement that NO kid EVER finds out about a kid’s diagnosis in school is wrong, absolutely wrong. I know people who have done it, gone to school and spoken to their kids’ classmates about why their kid is different. (

    But you wouldn’t know if this family has done that, because you don’t know these people.

    SKL, if she’s tying her shoes and they’re getting tied, why does it matter if it’s not the method you prefer? It’s a time difference of maybe five seconds, and it’s the same type of knot. It *is* the “right” way to tie shoes… for her. It’s like getting on her case because she buttons her shirt from the bottom up instead of the top down. (Or, indeed, cracks her egg on the wrong side! I have to get something to eat, this is like the second food metaphor I’ve made in just a few hours.)

  77. my not quite 5 yo son gets himself dressed and undressed,clothes to the hamper,dirty dishes to the dishwasher.he’s very capable of taking a rice cracker and spreading cream cheese on it.

    i think peple just don’t give their kids enough credit–they are really very capable–if we let them be.

    i have friends who sit for hours every night helping their kids do homework and projects for school.maybe some of the kids need the help—but i’m assuming???that by 7th grade most kids should not need help with all the subjuects every night……

  78. Kindergarten? My three-year-old is quite capable of dressing herself, changing her shoes or boots (no laces yet, granted), even buckling her carseat. I laughed when her daycare taught her the coat-on-the-floor trick of putting it on, since she’s been able to put on her own coat since she was two-and-a-half, and even manages to do up the zipper most of the time.

    Sometimes she pretends to be “a baby” because she wants us to do these things for her, and we humor her occasionally, though less and less. Not sure what she’d think of this kid; she might find the whole situation hilarious.

  79. I see moms like this at my daughter’s school, where the lockers for the special-needs preschool kids are right across from the NT second-graders. While the preschooler’s parents and TAs diligently work with our kids to remind them of how to take off boots, jackets, put mittens in pockets themselves, there’s another group of moms doing all this stuff for their much-older children while they stand there like lumps of wax, arms out expectantly. It’s amazing to me that we have higher expectations of our three-year-old kids with special needs (mostly autism) than many mothers of second-graders do.

    I’m hoping that one of these days, one of those mothers will glance over towards us and maybe wonder why we’re working so hard to teach our kids to be independent and decide that maybe it’s time for her children to do the same. To me, it looks like they’re working just as hard to handicap their NT kids as we are to teach our autistic kids to learn basic skills.

  80. This has been going on for years. There are kids in college that can’t physically take care of themselves! I worked with a 20-something a while back whose parents still regularly came into town to do his laundry. Encourage independence! You are raising ADULTS not children.

  81. I am not a parent, so I cannot talk about this subject in the same way most of you can. However, I am a nanny and a baby-sitter, and I was a preschool teacher. The girl I nanny unbuckles herself when she’s in my car and gets out, and she opens my door if I’m not out yet. She cannot buckle herself – she’s tried. She puts her dirty clothes where they go and her trash in the trash can, and she occasionally gets herself a simple snack, but she does get a bit lazy about that one. I’m not sure if she has any shoes with laces, but she can put on all of her shoes by herself (except one pair that she insists on wearing even though they are too small). When I taught preschool, one-year-olds would throw their own trash away and put away their own coats and/or blankets. I often see this girl’s mom carrying all her own and her 8-year-old’s stuff to the car in the morning – all he brings to school is a lunchbox, and he is perfectly capable of carrying it himself. I also find his dirty clothes stuffed in between the sofa cushions. His only chore is to feed the dogs – I think he could do much more.

  82. I had a bit of an apoplectic fit brought on by another parent’s “helping” my kids a few weeks ago. Long story. It went like this:

    My kids are 6.5 and 10. I live about a mile away from my kids’ school. In their other house (custody is a 50-50 split, week on, week off), they live a block and a half from school. When I was growing up, I lived a mile away from my elementary school and I walked there and back every day (never got a ride that I can remember) from the time I entered Kindergarten at age 4 (that’s right… I was only four when I started!), and by the time I was 5, I was doing it alone.

    So. Understanding that even though they might complain a bit, children are capable, so I encouraged my son to get himself to school from the time he was in grade 1. The first time I waved goodbye to him from the porch as he rode away on his bike was incredible for both of us. Such a grin on his face! And yes, he was road-safe. I rode behind him for a couple of weeks to make sure. I noticed that right away, there was a new sense of ease in our dealings with each other, less power struggles at home, more of a sense of mutual respect and connection.

    That quickly was eradicated by his dad’s freakout about this and his insistence that my son should by no means be getting himself to school, that there were predators everywhere, and that if he heard that I was doing this, or sending my kid alone to the store a couple of blocks away, or up the street a block to play with other kids, he’d call CPS. I heard this as a deep need for safety and well-being, and I asked him if that were the case. Yes, he said, “If anything ever happened to our son I think I would kill myself.”

    Well, I said, my carefully-chosen strategy of sending him to get to school on his own comes from the same needs. I want him to get a chance to make a few independent decisions, have a sense of mastery, get some physical exercise, so that he doesn’t experience autonomy as a sudden rush at age 12 or 13 and become self-destructive to prove he’s “grown up.” I said that my guess is that if he is on the leading edge of his peers in terms of self-care and autonomy, he will be less likely to become depressed, suicidal, or prone to addiction or obesity. “It’s all about safety and well-being for me,” I said, but I also didn’t want a war, and my son certainly was aware of how deeply his dad disapproved of my encouragement to go to school on his own, and didn’t want to do it anymore. We waited until Dad was comfortable, and it turned out to be in the middle of grade 3. Since then, my son has gotten himself to school, without fail, early, every single day, regardless of the weather, and does it with joy in his heart.

    Now my goal is to get my daughter doing the same thing. She sees herself as terribly vulnerable, that it “isn’t safe” for her to walk to school. Wonder where she got that idea? 😉 I don’t want her riding her bike alone at age 6; she’s not ready for that even though she can ride, but she certainly can walk alone. There’s even a brand-new sidewalk that makes the route even easier.

    She refuses to do it, though, and while I’d like him to help with this, my son wants to be at school an hour early most days to play in a football game he organizes with his friends, or to attend other school-sponsored sports practices, and my daughter wants to relax and have breakfast.

    So. I made a deal with my kids: they walk to and from school once a month as a brother and sister duo, and there’s a special lunch for them as a treat, at the fish and chip shop across the street from the school (more independence!). The last time I planned this with them, my son wanted to have a friend over after school, a friend who lives a block away from the school, but is still accompanied there each morning. I said sure, and they could go to the corner store for a treat with the change from the lunch and walk home as a group of three… how fun.

    Big build-up to the crisis moment of my story, but here it is: what do I see out my front window at the time I thought three rosy-cheeked children would be walking up the front stairs? An SUV parked in my driveway, and three kids piling out of it with their backpacks. How did this happen? I sputtered. “My friend’s dad saw us walking to the store after school and went there with us, then gave us a ride.” “Um, so he was just driving by? Why was he there in the first place?” I asked, barely hiding my rage.

    He was there, you see, because he and I have a long history of not seeing eye-to-eye on things like kids walking alone anywhere. Two years ago, when the boys were nearly 8, during a playdate here I let them go to the nearby beach (a bay, shallow, cold water, no swimming) together and told them to come back by a certain time. How proud my son was to have that little outing with his friend, and how furious both this boy’s father and my ex were when they heard about it.

    From then on, I never saw that boy come to our house again, even though I apologized for not considering the parents’ wishes (although I did not for a minute think their child was not safe). If there was a playdate, it happened at THEIR house, where there was plenty of supervision and video games.

    Anyway, this walk home was to be the first time this child would come to our house in almost two years. He would walk a mile, as one of three children in a group, two of them nearly 10, one of them 6.5, but the boy’s father intercepted them and chauffered them all. I’m still recovering from my outrage, because…

    NOW HEAR THIS, YOU MEDDLING, NEUROTIC NINCOMPOOP: It MATTERS to me that my children walk home, understand? IT MATTERS to me because I value things like MASTERY and GROWTH and CONNECTION and WELL-BEING, and I feel so resentful and upset when some other parent intervenes, “rescues,” and gives the whole pity-party-frowny-face to my attempts to give my children some sense of capability in their lives. That walk home would have done wonders for my kids’ relationship with each other. Those unsupervised walks home are a sacred thing! DON’T DENY MY CHILDREN THIS GIFT I AM GIVING THEM! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, BUTT OUT! Drive your own kid to my house, that’s fine. But LET MY CHILDREN WALK. Please. Please. Please.

    Sigh. Thanks for the space to rant, Lenore. How I adore this community online.

  83. @ Audrey, way way back there…

    I can tell you that my own mother, who was a single mother of 5 kids – though due to weird choices she made in earlier years she only raised the last two all the way through – She did EVERYTHING for those last two.

    They all paid a high price. My brother became an alcoholic at a young age… he believed himself to be incapable of doing anything, and just gave up. He’s doing well now at 33, thanks to a strong-willed and patient wife. My sister, the youngest, bailed at 17 to gain some independence, and fortunately she is thriving, now 27. My mom felt she had no purpose in continuing to live after the last kid moved out. It took her 3 years to recover from a complete psychological break, and live independently again. She wasn’t even 60. Now at 67, she’s pretty much just waitin’ for the reaper. She never built a life… she lived through her kids, and in doing so, also made it really really hard for her kids to establish lives of their own. They had zero skills. Zero. Doing for them was all she ever did.

  84. @ Linda Wightman (applauds ) thank you very much for your good sense and tact.

  85. mollie – I feel your split-custody, differing ideas on “safety” and independence pain. My ex and I both live about a block (a tiny one) from my daughter’s school (in different complexes, but pretty much along the same route), and I can’t let her walk to and from school even when she’s with me, because of the problems it causes. My daughter hates this, and thinks it is completely unreasonable. (She’s 11.5, or “practically twelve” according to her.)

    We’ve had similar problems just with basic responsibilities and independence levels. While I taught her to do as much for herself as possible and to help around the house from a young age, he seemed to think we should do everything for her (though he often gets confused when she doesn’t automatically know how to do something). He actually had a problem with the fact that I told her to go into the kitchen and get her own drink when she was *five*. At seven, she cooked me (completely on her own, with me sitting at the counter outside the kitchen just keeping her company) a *full* Mother’s Day breakfast. She didn’t want me to touch anything. That same year, she learned how to cook her first full meal for dinner (spaghetti bolognese, still her ‘specialty’). Yet… At 9, he was still insisting on pouring her cereal in the morning (or trying to tell me I should be doing it).
    And since we’ve split up, I’ve discovered that it is difficult to help her be independent (as she so desperately wants… and has pretty much since she was born), when she is being completely stifled in the other households (she also spends some time at his parents…though they have been getting better about expecting her to do things herself). My house runs fairly smoothly, because there is a routine and everyone knows they are supposed to pick things up and do certain chores. She has no trouble flowing right along with that. The problem is that she doesn’t have that same routine/system in place elsewhere, and even when she wants to do things herself, she’s overwhelmed. I have to try to give her advice on how to still be responsible and do things that need to be done, even when it is made harder by things being *way* more chaotic and having the rules actually stacked against her being able to accomplish anything independently. And I have to do it without being able to be there, see the situation and give specific guidance, while trying to balance things against what her father will and won’t allow.

    And yes, I have run into other family members (heh… not from my side of the family) and other parents trying to be “helpful” when I am trying to teach her to do more for herself. Why does it have to be so much of a fight, these days, just to teach kids how to be competent, capable individuals?

  86. As a child i use to play hockey. making sure all my equipment got in to the car and in to the rink was my responsibility. I never forgot anything at home. Now i go to a lot of my cousin’s games, and when equipment gets forgotten it’s the parents who are saying they forgot to put the stick, or jerseys in the car. or they must have missed (insert equipment)when packing up the bag.

    my cousin never has to check her bag or put things in the car. But it cracks me up because when things get left at home her parents blame her, and tell her she needs to be more responsible. Even when she tries to take over and pack her bag,someone has to double check. Or she will put her sticks and jerseys in the car and someone will get out and check they are there. the message they are sending her is you can’t do this and/or we don’t trust you do to this.

  87. So then how do you convince your ex to stop stealing these opportunities from your daughter? 😉

  88. As a teacher and a parent, I would never dream of banishing parents from a school or classroom. I know of a local school that tried that and they just about had a riot on their hands! The parents were, rightfully in my my mind, outraged that they would try to keep them out. The ban lasted all of a week before enough parents got angry and contacted the school board (who told the principal that she didn’t have the right to tell parents where they couldn’t and couldn’t be in a public building)and the media.

    As a parent, I walk my kids to class every day. I will occasionally hold back packs while they dig things out of them but generally I do it so I have a chance to chat with the teachers (I’m the room parent for both classes and there is always some plan in the works), see their art displays, see what is happening in the class that day, etc. My son is in 3rd grade and really gets upset on the days I don’t do it. It isn’t that I’m doing anything for him but he knows that I care enough about his education to be present in his school, every chance I get.

    As a teacher, I wish more parents walked their kids to class. We have a drive up drop off option and I feel like it really takes something away from the experience. The kids that do get walked in (early drop offs) are always so excited to have their parents in the classroom. They want to show them the pictures we have hung up, they want to show them where their carpet square will be for the day, what project we are working on etc. And it isn’t just the once in a while parents, it nearly everyday.

    I do insist that my kids (3s and 4s) attempt independence in class. I won’t open juice boxes, especially for the 4s, until they’ve tried it themselves, I don’t put coats on anyone anymore, although I do still zip most of the 3s and a couple of the 4s. I still tie a whole mess of shoes and I will never understand why parents buy tie shoes for kids that can’t tie. My son didn’t want to tie his shoes for the longest time. We showed him and worked with him repeatedly, but the deal was, until he could show me that he could tie his shoes, reliably, he had to wear velcro. It wasn’t until this fall, when he couldn’t find any velcro shoes that weren’t horribly ugly, that he finally decided that maybe, just maybe, he actually COULD tie his shoes. Lo and behold, he demonstrated the ability and ended up with some cool high tops to show for it. I have tied his fancy shoes maybe a handful of times since fall and mostly when I’m saying things like “we needed to be in the car 5 minutes ago and your shoes STILL aren’t tied” which is totally my deal for not getting us moving faster in the morning.

  89. Uly, to clarify, the thing I want my kid to do better is to tie her OWN shoes and not rely on others to tie them. I also want her to tie them tightly enough that they don’t come untied again in a matter of minutes. If she ties them half-assed so they come untied again, she should have to re-tie them herself as often as necessary. If she finds herself having to drop everything and tie her shoes every 5 minutes, maybe she’ll be motivated to tie them tighter the first time. Does that make sense?

  90. I find the dropping kids off thing funny though. Here parents are welcome in the school every morning before class. My girls LOVE for me to take them to school into the class and look at what they are doing. I go into the class every single day! (two classes) and my girls are 10 and 8!! and I have a 4 and 1 year old who like to look at everything

    Also my eldest daughter just had NO interest in learning to tie shoelaces and never even wore shoes with laces (what shoes have laces?? not many here in australia where its ok to wear sandles or crocs to school) I was deeply embrassed when I realised she did not know how to tie laces! lol lol. And she is a very smart kid reading level 2 years above etc. I felt bad as tieing shoelaces was meant to be a ‘know before you go to grade one skill’ lol lol

    I should also mention that that link for chores and what ages is inspired by a book called The Parenting breakthrough by Merrilee Boyack.

  91. @BeQui yes bullies should be kicked out of school/sent to alternative school. The other students deserve to have an education not abuse.

    Most Autistic kids can be taught social behaviors. Bullies are sociopaths sooner locked up away from the rest of us the better. (I’m not taking about name calling and childhood scuffles but real bullies who terrorize other children).

  92. @Uly – Dropping off in the classroom is allowed but discouraged for a few reasons one of which is just a basic problem of not enough parking spaces but others have to do with the kids’ development. First, I’ve never seen the parents just drop off. They take off coats, hang them up, help/remind the kid to wash his hands – all the things that the school is trying to teach the kid to do themselves. Second, it is disruptive to the flow of the morning if the parent is walking around the class or trying to talk to the teacher who needs to get ready for class. The teacher makes time in the afternoon to talk to parents but in the morning she’s trying to get 20 4 and 5 year olds seated and ready to start the day by 8 am sharp – a feat similar to trying to herd cats even without the distraction of parents. And third, in 2.5 months, preschool will be over. Come August 1st, the children are going to have to find their way around a much bigger school that is unfamiliar to them. Better to learn and get some confidence in a small, familiar (several of these kids have been in this daycare since infants) environment.

    Your argument seems to be the same that could be made at any age about anything and frequently is by helicopter parents. If my 10 year old wants me to drive her a block and I want to drive her a block what’s the problem? The problem is that the kids need to learn to do for themselves. It seems like something you are doing for yourself rather than your child.

  93. SKL – well, it makes a heck of a lot more sense than what I thought you said!

    Donna – I refer you to Carrie’s comment above, and also point out that what you’re describing is not what SKL says she’s doing. Unless you are her kid’s teacher, of course.

  94. Maybe it’s just where I live but I am surrounded by moms who think it’s an abomination that I don’t make school lunches for my kids.

    My kids are 12 and 16. They’ve been making their own school lunches since they were 7.

    These are moms of HIGH SCHOOL BOYS who tell me, no BRAG TO ME, that they make lunches for their boys everyday, then later complain that both their husbands and sons seen like they don’t know how to accomplish the simplest tasks.

    These are the same moms who think it’s horrible that I work for a living. Again, remember. My kids are 12 and 16. They think the fact that I work for a living NOW is horrible.

    I don’t want to pin this on any particular nationality but where I live is about 70-80% Italian-American. These moms are all going to wonder why their sons are still living at home when they’re 30.

  95. This is crazy. My son has been dressing himself for inside and outside for two years (he’s almost four). Yesterday he learned how to get the juice out of the fridge and pour a glass for himself… this morning he tried it out before we were out of bed and spilt juice all over the kitchen, so he cleaned it up, by himself! Did a pretty good job too. He loves being independent and his little sister is following very much in his footsteps: she tries to dress herself, she CAN get her shoes on, though not done up and she’ll get her own bowl for food and both of them clear their dishes from the table (she’s 20 months). I love having independent kids and they just shine when I let them do things for themselves. It baffles me why you wouldn’t.

  96. steph: “I worked with a 20-something a while back whose parents still regularly came into town to do his laundry.”

    I wonder what’s wrong with teenagers these days. What happened to teen rebellion! Isn’t that when we wanted independence and distance from our parents? I couldn’t imaging any of my friends from high school putting up with so much smothering helicopter parenting into our late teens!

  97. @Jennifer (who replied at 19:48, Feb. 26): Have you checked online about Dyspraxia? I wasn’t diagnosed with it until about third grade (age 8 or 9) and it’s not well known, but it’s a coordination disorder that essentially means I, as a college student, have to stop walking, talking, pause my music, and look down in order to do up a button. It also took me until age 10 or 11 to balance on a bike, my best handwriting is still comparable to chicken-scratch… but it mainly just meant I had to work a bit harder/longer. is the website.

  98. If it’s a more or less predictable occurrence that children are coming home “covered with bites” because a child experiences a minor frustration or variation in routine, *something is wrong,* and it isn’t enough to say, “Well, the teacher should just learn the kid’s triggers and avoid them.” Stuff happens and the other kids shouldn’t be winding up *injured* because the teacher slipped up in some small way. I am certainly not saying, and I doubt Sera is saying, that all special needs kids need to be shipped off somewhere, or that typical kids shouldn’t learn to adapt to others’ needs, but it simply isn’t appropriate to put kids at frequent risk of genuine injury via easily triggered acting out behaviors in another child. Maybe “covered” with bites was an exaggeration?

  99. One of my kids has some reading and writing delays, and also tends to be rather forgetful. I have struggled, and struggled trying to get the school to focus on the academics, and not treat his disorganization and forgetfulness as a syndrome they have to fix. Sure, help him organize his thoughts for a written assignment. Teach him how to take notes and make to-do lists. But for the love of all that is holy DON’T police whether he puts his stuff away, brings his gym shoes, or all that crap. He is LAZY. He will do as little as he can get away with. If he forgets or loses something, let him deal with the consequences. I sent this kid to resident camp for a week last summer at age 9, and he managed to not lose a single thing (in fact, he came home with someone else’s socks!). I think he can handle it.

  100. @Ann That’s because boomers remembered well what they used to do as teens/young adults and raised their kids in such a way as to make sure the kids never get the same ideas. 😀

  101. In my lazy, defeatist opinion, this is a great argument for daycare. Kids are so much more willing to try harder and be the grownup when their parents aren’t around. I know my youngest asks me to do things for her she would never ask a care provider to do.

  102. Once when my youngest was about 2, she crawled up onto the kitchen counter and actually made herself a pb&j. She left quite a mess, but she did it on her own. Now 4 yrs later, I let her cook the family dinner on occasion. I have to admit I feel like I’m being a lazy parent when one of the kids asks for more milk or something during supper and I tell them that they are perfectly capable of getting it for themselves. But I really know I am doing it out of love for their own independence.

  103. @ Uly –

    As far as Carrie’ statement, I think you are comparing apples and oranges. This is not daycare. This is a regulated school day controlled by the Board of Education and functioning on the same schedule as K-12.

    As a result, the class day has strict, government regulated start and stop times, exactly like those in K-12. Since the teacher can’t have parents wandering around the classroom looking at art work and still start class on time, they discourage parents from coming in. Think of how distracting it would be for a 2nd grade teacher to start class with all the parents walking around the classroom every morning looking at work and trying to discuss things with the teacher. It wouldn’t happen and my teachers have no less regulation on them. There is absolutely no discouragement and parents are more than welcome to come into the classroom, walk around and talk to the teacher in the morning before the children reach pre-k (age 4). The school simply prefers that the parents do the talking and art work praising after class in pre-k so the teacher can start on time.

    As far as SKL, I never said she was doing any of those things. She said that she liked to walk in to see what the kids were doing for the day. I simply stated that the class day at my child’s school hasn’t started at the time the kids get dropped off so the parents AT MY CHILD’S SCHOOL are not looking to see what the kids are doing for the day.

    I was speaking about specific situations at my child’s specific school in which parents are coming into the classroom and distrupting the school day against the wishes of the school not making a general statement that ALL parents who walk their children into the classroom are being helicopter parents.

  104. @ Ann in L.A. and Hels

    Please do not lump all of us teens/early 20s together. It’s depressing. We’re not all that way.

    I’ve just turned 20, am almost done my 4 year university degree, have studied abroad, and live entirely alone and have since I started university– in a city three hours from “home”. (though I’m rather disgraced that I’ll be living at my dad’s place for a month and a half this summer to save money for another trip abroad…I’m a mooch, I admit it.)

    Still,we’re not all pathetic and useless. Just had to throw that in there. But, then, I never had anyone doing up my coat and taking off my boots after I started pre-school, either.

  105. I thought of this yesterday when something typical happened at work. I am a nanny for a 4-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy. The boy had a snack of apples with honey. He then asked me to get him a wet towel to wipe his sticky hands. We were all sitting down – he was watching tv, and I was reading a book. I said no, he could get up and wash his hands himself. In my experience teaching preschool, this is what teachers would expect a 2-year-old to do. He asked me 3-4 times, getting more and more upset, before he finally did it himself. As he got up, he said something like, “I never get to do anything I want,” to which I responded, “Oh yeah, since you got home from school, you’ve gotten to play with legos, use the computer, and watch tv, and not once have I told you to stop doing any of those things.” (He did clean up toys for about 2 minutes, but that was because he agreed to help his sister.) I wonder what all his mom does for him when she’s home.

  106. I’ve been meaning to comment… this reminds me of a mom in my mom’s club. We all were at an indoor gym place near here and they serve food so we had all sat down to have lunch. She makes her 2 1/2 year old boy sit in a high chair. He has to wear a bib. She cuts up all his food into bite size pieces. This kid weighs probably 35 lbs. He is getting to the point of being able to do quite a few things for himself. Our son is 2 months older than him, so I know. We let our son sit in chairs or booths without any assistance. He uses a fork and knife. No bib, no other crutches. Parents forget that kids need to learn to do things on their own. I don’t understand the need for coddling – it goes way too far these days.

  107. @ mollie and KLY — Interesting, I sometimes wonder if the rise in helicopter parenting is related to the rise in divorce rates. I think a big part of the appeal of helicoptering is that it makes parenting highly visible. And being observable to others, means those others can corroborate that the person is a good parent, which may be particularly attractive to those for whom custody is an issue (even if it’s settled, it is, in principle, an issue).

    Mollie, sounds like you defused the situation with their dad brilliantly though. And cheers to both of you for not buckling (even if at times it can only be inwardly).

  108. I work at a public library, and frequently get parents coming in after work to gather research for their children’s reports and projects. The child isn’t even there. Often when the child is there, the parent speaks for the child.

  109. @BMS I understand what you are saying and agree if they are only targeting your child for organizational help. If it is the whole class that is a different matter. I often get the “We know they are showing dyslexic/dysgraphic tendencies but they are so smart they are cruising by right now kids” in my class.

    That was me back in elementary school. The idea is that I teach them coping strategies NOW before they hit the wall (I hit mine in University and it hurt).

    We work on organizing our stuff as well as we are learning the curriculum. That way they have what they need, when they need it. I’m not wasting time because Johnny doesn’t have his notebook ready.

  110. I love you all 🙂 so glad that there are so many of sane ppl in this world.

    My mum owns a children shoe shop. She says that very often mothers come with their kids, sorry correction , TEENAGERS and they have to tie their shoes while those kids are just standing there looking bored! Really??? and then you hear all of those women saying how hard work it is to be a partent. No wonder! Make your life easier by teaching kids simple, basic things they will need for life. As someone said here, 10 mins is all you need to teach a kid how to tie a shoe! and i dont even want to go into cleaning the room/house here. Me and my sister had to do it since i can remember , every Saturday we cleaned the whole place. No excuses.

  111. […] Part II « FreeRangeKids Hi Readers — we suspicion this was an engaging criticism on the post about doing “everything” for a kids (and holding divided a event for them to learn how to do […]

  112. “Unless you know for absolutely sure that that “overly mothered” child is not autistic, than you need to think twice about certain kinds of judgements.”

    I agree with this comment. See also: dyspraxia, which I have. Organising myself was impossible at school. My mum still didn’t over-mother me though, I just borrowed from other people all the time, used the spare PE kit and did schoolwork on loose sheets of paper when I forgot my exercise book for the millionth time. She also attached my mittens to my coat with string, which I thought was very clever! 🙂

  113. “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what circumstances lead to any child being disruptive or violent. What matters is the effect that this behaviour has on those around that child. Feeling threatened and unempowered and unsafe makes for a terrible learning environment, and a bad place for mental development. There is no feeling more unempowering than being effectively told “We will not punish the person who has hurt you. We will punish you for hurting them back. We will allow this situation to continue. You may not do anything about it. Accept it and stop bothering us.”

    Thus, for everybody’s sake, the special needs children need to be sent to the special schools that are equipped to handle them, where the teachers have the understanding, the training and the inclination to give the children there the help they need to grow into functioning adults.”

    I have to say, Sera, this is pretty normal when no neuroatypical children are involved. We all learn – at least me and all my friends did, all of whom went to different schools so it wasn’t one school that was bad – then when you’re bullied, you’re just screwed. A bully hits you or makes your life a misery and you tell on them, nothing will happen. You’ll be told to stay away from them and the bully won’t be punished, and this can be true even for sexual assaults by a bully. But if you hit the bully, hoo boy will you get a ton of bricks coming down on you!

  114. I have to say, Sera, this is pretty normal when no neuroatypical children are involved.

    Aye, it is. I must make the pertinent point that there is a big difference between conventional bullying, and the violent acting-out behaviour of a child with some sort of neurological impairment.

    Bullies are… well, they’re fairly predictable, and consequence driven. There are ways and means to avoid them, or do something about them, or at the very least, you know that a bully is a bully and you know what to expect. The bullies also know that they will be punished if they fail to keep their behaviour from authority figures, so there are many situations where they can’t do anything.

    A special needs child at my brother’s primary school stabbed her classmate through the hand with a pencil. Right there in the classroom, in full view of the teacher and the rest of the class, with her aide sitting a few feet away. Her classmate had done nothing to provoke her – she had just gotten frustrated with whatever it was she was doing and lashed out, attacking the nearest child. The child described in this thread also (apparently) lashes out violently if he loses his gloves.

    This lashing-out behaviour is, from the point of view of the victim, entirely random. These impaired kids aren’t reacting to anything the victims are doing, nor are they sociopaths with a predictable habit of hurting others for enjoyment. Therefore, the typical kids can’t really react to, plan around, or avoid this behaviour from the impaired child, other than by staying as far away from him as possible at all times.

    The lashing-out behaviour is also not as controlled as conventional bullying. Your neurotypical bully generally knows when to stop, when to not leave evidence, and when they can overstep the line so that people will really pay attention. A violent neuroatypical child does not have these limits. They don’t think about the consequences of gouging at a classmate’s eyes. They don’t think about attacking another child with a toy and with their teeth until they bleed.

  115. […] to read more on this subject? Check out this post at Free Range Kids. This reader suggests that when we do everything for the kids we are actually […]

  116. I am a nanny for two kids, the younger of whom is 4 and in part-day preschool. At drop-off, the kids are allowed to sign in t the entrance to their classroom. They are not required to sign in and certainly not graded on their hand-writing. Some of the kids can write their names; others put a letter or two; and others just put a line or something like that. However, one mom HOLDS HER SON’S HAND while he writes his name. How is he going to learn to do it himself if Mommy’s holding his hand? What will this be like in 1st grade (and beyond)?

  117. I can just see me talking to said hypothetical women in my condescending French accent and why without independence the child will never become a adult

  118. […] Readers — I thought this was an interesting comment on the post about doing “everything” for our kids (and taking away the opportunity for them to […]

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