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Fayette-Mom: Preventing meltdowns, overindulging kids

Posted July 25, 2011 8:48 p.m. EDT

Jennifer Joyner

I’ve known several teenage girls who were reluctant to get their driver’s licenses. They weren’t anxious to take driver’s ed, and they didn’t pester their parents to take them to get their permits. When they turned 16, it was weeks, months even before they finally went to the DMV.

This baffles me. When I was 16, I couldn’t wait to drive. I remember marking the days off the calendar until my 16th birthday. I so looked forward to not having to beg for rides all the time, and of course, I loved the independence.

So what has changed? At first I chalked it up to the fact that for many kids these days, begging for rides isn’t a reality. Parents are much more indulgent, especially in the name of keeping our children safe. Another mom pointed out to me that some schools limit which students can drive cars to school, so sometimes it’s pointless to get your license as soon as you possibly can. And it would surely seem that fewer teenagers have part-time jobs than when I was growing up, so there is even less of a need for reliable transportation.

So it would seem the difference is merely the changing times. Or is it?

Over the weekend, I started reading a book that was given to me several years ago called “Raising the Responsible Child." I wasn’t finished with the first chapter before I had already picked up several tips I could use with my own kids, and then I was surprised when it addressed the very issue of kids not wanting to drive.

Basically, it said when parents overindulge their kids, when we try to remove any potential problem from their lives, we prevent them from not only learning how to solve dilemmas on their own, we also deprive them of the confidence there is to gain by finding solutions for themselves.

Whoa. It was like a light switch clicked on for me. How often have I, as a mom, surveyed a situation, trying to figure out what could cause my child to become upset, and then worked to avoid that very same thing? Sure, I was probably preventing a meltdown in the short term, but what does that do for my child in the long run? I don’t want them to get hurt, but I do want them to know it’s OK to fail, too. It’s unavoidable.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book. Have you ever had one of those “light switch” moments as a parent?

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in September. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.