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12/9/12blog post

when should you give up on your child?

In discussing how to deal with difficult employees, a noted healthcare consultant (Quint Studer) advised that it’s time to terminate an employee when you find yourself working harder than they are to correct their misbehavior. There are times when parents should adopt that same philosophy with their kids.

Parents can never really give up on their children. Those child-parent bonds are forever, surviving intense hurts and bitter betrayals. Even so, there are times when parents should recognize that their efforts at influencing their kids are ineffective, and simply give up. Here are the two most common situations I’ve encountered.

  • Kids who waste their special abilities. Adults know that a talent is a gift to be nurtured not ignored. Developing those natural abilities takes hard work and self-control. Isn’t there a time when you stop requiring your child to practice the piano or participate in gymnastics, in spite of their extraordinary talents?
  • Kids who do not continue their education after high school. About one-third of high school graduates decide not to attend trade school or college. They may have other interests, lack financial resources, or simply be lazy. Adults know the lifelong consequences of these decisions, and thus continue to exhort their high school student to do his homework in spite of its ineffectiveness?

There are many situations where parental pressure can make the situation worse. As children get older, you need to gradually let go and allow your child to make his own decisions. Some kids use that freedom to finally begin to do the right thing on their own rather than rebel against their parents’ wishes. Others do not, and that’s really tough for parents to accept.

This approach goes against every parental instinct to protect our kids in a kind of emotional bubble wrap. We’ve experienced the disappointment of looking for jobs without the right skills. We’ve worked in low paying and boring careers because we were lazy at school when we were younger. We’ve wondered what our lives might have been like if we had more self-control and worked harder at pursing our talents and dreams.

There is no right age to back off and let your child make his own decisions. The transition should be gradual so that kids learn in small steps how to make and experience the consequences of their actions. For kids with athletic or artistic skills, I think sometime around junior high is the right age. While you should always expect some modest standard of school performance, there is a point in high school where hyper vigilance over school work just doesn’t work.

Sometimes you need to love your kids enough to give up on them and let them live their own lives.