Fighting The Urge To Feel Needed

“They are only little once.”
“They won’t need me forever.”
“That looks hard, let me do that for you!”

Oddly enough, these are the parenting phrases that I try to avoid. I firmly believe that giving my children the tools to fend for themselves is the most important gift that I can give them. Maybe this be should called cave-man parenting?

Picture this; My two-year-old daughter comes to me with a task that I know she can do. In this instance, she wants help putting on her shoes. I’ve seen her do it a hundred times, but for some reason this time she feels frustrated. Her asking turns to pleading. Tears well up and fall out onto her sweet little face. It’s not pretty.

That little helicopter part of my heart is screaming at me to just bend down and help her. But instead, I remind myself to say;

“No, Nora, I think you can do it. You need to try.”

And after awhile, if she really wants her shoes on…she will try. And…she might fail. Or…she might succeed. Her shoes are on backwards and inside-out. But, technically, it’s a success.

Now stop.

Take a mental image of the look on her face after she has accomplished something that frustrated her. Especially when she has failed at it before. The look on her face is pure gold, magical unicorns, rainbows and sunshine. That look is better than any satisfaction that I might get from feeling like I had a place in the world because she needed me.

It is that look that I strive for every single day. SHE did it. SHE persevered over a task that was hard. SHE feels confident.

I could have swooped down and rescued her and made everything in her world perfect; sooner, righter. But then I became the solution. And I’m not always going to be there.

If I always rescue her, what happens when she is 16? And she has to figure shit out, like should she get into that car with that drunk driver or not? Or what to do when kids bully her on social media? Well, she might not feel brave enough to tell me and she also won’t have the confidence that she can actually do anything for herself, so what does she decide then? Life is hard. If she can’t figure out how to get down from that chair she purposefully climbed on today, how will she ever figure out what to do when she fails a test in college? Or how to pay bills? Or how to tell some ahole boyfriend to jump in the lake?

I believe that one of my main jobs as a parent is to make sure that our kids are ready to function in this world. My husband and I fail them if we protect them from all the pain and suffering. We aren’t helping them by saving them or helicoptering them or making their worlds perfect. We aren’t giving them the tools to live and work and make decisions for their future and choose the better path and right their own wrongs and live.

They CAN clean up that milk they spilled, they CAN sleep in their own bed, wash their own face, feed the dog, close the door, put their clothes away, they CAN do a million other little things during the day for themselves. And they want to. I just have to let them and fight my own urge to feel needed.

Cause that urge is all about me, not about them.

How do you feel about letting your kids fail?

Published on: November 15, 2013
About the Author
Photo of Joelle Wisler

Joelle Wisler is a writer, occasional physical therapist, and paranoid trail runner; constantly terrified of being eaten by a mountain lion. She most recently moved from the beach in California to the mountains outside of Boulder, CO where she tries to balance motherhood, writing and maintaining her sanity with her husband, Robb.

Get Dr. Greene's Wellness RecommendationsSignup now to get Dr. Greene's healing philosophy, insight into medical trends, parenting tips, seasonal highlights, and health news delivered to your inbox every month.
Add your comment

Recent Comments

Joelle, this is why I come to you for parenting advice! Thanks.

Joelle, I think that is a issue we’ll struggle with all our kids lives. I have teenagers that I still have to remind myself that “they can do it”. Thanks for the article!