“One of the most damaging effects of parental permissiveness is making things too easy for a child…When a parent babies a child too much, the parent actually renders that child useless, or at least cripples him or her in one way or another.” (Dr. Kevin Lehman from The Birth Order Book).
Generally, I do not consider myself a permissive parent by nature. In fact, if you were to ask my kids, they would tell you I am usually pretty strict, and tend to lean toward authoritative versus democratic, something I am working on changing. I tend to be a lover of natural consequences. If you lost your homework, you need to explain that to your teacher at school. If you left your new toy out where your baby brother could get it, then it is your fault that he broke it or lost the pieces. If you forgot to let the dog outside when he had to go…well then, I guess you are going to learn how to work the steam cleaner.
Life can get messy at times…actually, really messy. The kind of messy that makes you want to say, “What in the world” when you are staring at Vaseline smeared on the walls, door, carpet, and crib of your baby’s room because your toddler found the jar and wanted to ‘paint.’ The kind of messy that can only be described as miraculous when you are staring at tree limbs littering your yard after a freak storm swept through, sparing your house but nothing else.
In order to have the perseverance as an adult to power through the messes of life, we need to have practice cleaning up smaller messes in childhood. If, as a parent, you are constantly rescuing your child from the messes relevant in their life, how will they deal with the messes that will inevitably show up in adulthood? You learn how to clean up Vaseline (and learn to put the jar up higher next time) by learning to keep your toys away from your baby brother. You learn how to carve out a whole day if necessary to clean up your yard after remembering your experience of steam cleaning your living room carpet when you were ten.
If we, as parents, take the easy way out and rescue our children every time life gets a little dirty, we are really hurting them in the long run. It is only by building that muscle, beginning in childhood, that children will eventually blossom into responsible, independent adults, a goal all parents really want. Hopefully, that is something we can all think about the next time somebody drops a toothbrush in the toilet…whose turn will it be to roll up their sleeves and fish it out?