You Can’t Do It For Them: Why Adults Need Take a Step Back

By February 13, 2015 5 Comments

“I don’t want to do that assignment.”

“I don’t want to work with that person.”

“I don’t want to present this to the class.”

“But I don’t know how. My legs don’t work.” The personal favorite of our soon to be four-year old.

If you’re a parent, teacher, or administrator you have no doubt heard these excuses before. One of the problems facing the educational world today is the lack of accountability and responsibility our young people have. Too often we as parents, teachers, and administrators are more worried about protecting feelings rather than doing what’s best for the students. This week we’re going to tackle this tough issue and offer possible solutions to it.

In order to eliminate this problem, we must recognize that all parties have an important role. It’s like a car engine, the whole can’t function without the part. So, we as parents must accept the responsibility we have in our child’s education. It is our duty to teach responsibility, commitment, and follow-through to our children at a young age. We need to teach our kids to have a growth mindset, which means it’s okay to fail. Too often we put in kids in bubble wrap to protect them from the feelings associated with failure. Once kids realize failure is okay and it’s the only way to grow, they will begin to reach new heights. When our child complains about an assignment, grade, or not wanting to do something; don’t run up to or call school immediately. Help your child to understand the problem and how best to solve it. We as parents need to reinforce the values the school is trying to teach; not question every move an educator makes. 

“Once there was this kid who”…finish the lyric. (Sorry couldn’t help myself, Crash Test Dummies started playing in my head as I typed this:)  But seriously, there was a boy who had to get up in front of his peers (the whole school) and introduce the school play. He was terrified. He got up in front of everyone and froze. He ran off the stage in shame. His teacher asked if he knew his lines. He did. “Then go back out there and say them,” the teacher said. “I don’t want to,” said the boy. “Get back out there and do your job,” said the teacher. Reluctantly, the boy got back out there and said his lines. He wasn’t good but each and every time after, he got better. Eventually, he came to realize he loved speaking and turned it into a career. This is a true story. The boy became renowned motivational speaker, Les Brown.

I faced these same issues as a student, as I am sure many of you did. I had to take a speech class in high school where we had to pantomime, deliver five-minute speeches, and do a group lip-sync dance. It was terrifying. But I did it, and gradually became a better speaker. Now as teacher and coach I have to speak in front of others all the time. One of the best things my dad ever did was force me to go out and get a job on my own. I didn’t want to. I asked him to find one for me, he said no. So I had to do it myself. These small events have helped me become the self-reliant man I am today.

The thing I began to realize through these experiences is that the more you do something, the easier it becomes. We’re not doing our children any favors by allowing them to get out of doing something because it gives them anxiety. Now, I realize anxiety is a serious issue for many, and I’m not trying to minimize it at all. However, our kids are never going to amount to anything if we never challenge them to face their fears. We’re not doing them any favors if we allow them to run from what makes them uncomfortable. We must teach them to thrive on being uncomfortable. If not, we may be saving their feelings but we’re not setting them up for success.

The problem with our society today is far too many people aren’t willing to tell others “NO.” This is especially true in education. It’s imperative that we teach our kids to face their fears. It is the only way they will ever reach their full potential.

What are your thoughts on this topic? I’d love to hear them.

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!


Coach Elmendorf is available to speak to your group, team, or organization. Please contact him for details.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Terry Crawford says:

    Prepare the CHILD for the Path, not the PATH for the Child……Our kids are losing the ability to deal with difficult people and situations. We must change this in our society. And that change must start at home and in school.

  • kelmendorf says:

    Absolutely, Terry. Love that line, “Prepare the child for the Path, not the path for the child.” Great stuff, I’d love to use that if you don’t mind? You’re absolutely correct, the change must start at home and school.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it!

    Have a great weekend,

  • Art Giorgio says:

    Great article and reminder that some lessons from yesteryear still have validity. Too bad our Districts, Courts and Communities at large have forgotten our parents’ legacy.

    God blessed us with 3 healthy, handsome, intelligent and althletic sons. However like all multichild families, too often it seems that we as parents get lazy with the upbringing after our first child. By lazy, I mean inconsistent.

    Teaching moments, coaching moments, even deportment or punishing moments become too much of a chore in parent’s busy world, where we have all forgotten the basic psychology of stimulus and response. I was reminded that from my oldest yesterday, where he cited examples of a younger sibling’s rude behavior and the lack of immediate consequences, or should I say our failure to deal with that behavior immediately–the way we did when it was only us, and him.

    I remember a lesson about how all first borns are the “experimental” child as couples learn how to become parents. I remember spanking my first born at 8 for something he deserved a spanking for. Now by no means am I a corporal punishment parent. In fact my son noted that I hit him maybe 5 or 6 times growing up. He then went on further to tell me why I spanked him and the lesson he learned from it.

    It made me wonder since I’m not sure I’ve spanked his brothers even half as much.

    While preparing our children for adulthood doesn’t always require physical contact, the stimulus of consequence as a response to behavior unacceptable in society is something many have discounted or forgotten. The best line I’ve heard was “…have you ever thought about how that will affect the psyche” of the child?”

    “Yes”, I replied, “that’s why we aren’t driving all the way home to get his jersey. He will have to sit out this game and learn to be more responsible and prepared the next time.”

    What I wasn’t prepared for was my youngest going to his coach, the officials and the league representative on his own and apologizing for his forgetting his jersey, that his parents had indeed reminded him, three times between yesterday and on gameday, but he just forgot he hasn’t put it on after brushing his teeth. In a very strange twist, the league officialallowed him to play. So my punishment, became a teaching, learning and vindicating moment as well.

    In this age of endless communication, it’s just not enough to take away the child’s smartphone, game-system or T.V. We as parents have to dig deeper to see what works for each of our children. In my case, trying to raise and handle each child differently, had its positive and negatives and is always challenging.

    Just remember, when you sign up for the “parents club”, you must abide by the club’s ultimate mission statement: raise and prepare your children to be productive members of society.

    Maybe it’s as simple as dusting off my copy of Dr. Spencer Johnson’s book, The One Minute Manager, and immefiately applying concepts like the one-minute reprimand to my 11 and 10 year old. Focus on the behavior your trying to modify, and always end the “lesson” with, “I expect better behavior from you because, I know you can do it”.

  • kelmendorf says:

    Excellent points Art, thanks for sharing. I think the key you hit on is the expectations. We as parents must remember that we are disciplining the action, not the person. Expectations are key.

    Have a great weekend Art!!

  • kelmendorf says:

    Great points, love it! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it! I really like your point, “I expect better from you because I know you can do it.” That’s powerful.

    All the best,