How Hard is Too Hard?

Today I turn to you for feedback, asking you how you parent in these types of situations. Today, our topic is: how hard is too hard to push our kids? Where is the line between too tough, and not tough enough? (Insert word coddling, as my husband put it this morning, accusing me of not being tough enough).

We just came off a wonderful weekend.

It started Friday, 5pm. The kids were on a playdate, and clearly, us moms were too. 😉
How Hard is Too Hard?


We lit the menorah for the first night of Hanukkah.
How Hard is Too Hard?


I loved the fortune in my cookie. Chinese food on the first night of Chanukah– the perfect Jewish celebration. 😉
How Hard is Too Hard?


My 5 year-old got called up to play hockey with the 7 and 8 years olds. He was the smallest guy on the team, and despite dry-heaving in the garbage can before the game, he almost scored, and had a wonderful time. Here’s mini man (red 10).
How Hard is Too Hard?


We celebrated his 6th birthday party. Twenty boys playing glow-in-the-dark mini golf, went surprisingly very well.
How Hard is Too Hard?


I got Best Worst Mom of the Year award for ordering him what he asked for. A John Cena WWE cake. Don’t judge me.
How Hard is Too Hard?

So all in all, a successful and fun-filled weekend.

But this morning, during breakfast, all of sudden my 9 year old blurted out PANICKED- “I have a French oral this morning!!”

Okay, stay calm everyone.

Me: “And, when I asked you on Saturday if you had any homework, you said, ‘Oh mom, they don’t give homework on Hanukkah.’ “

Son: “Well I forgot about my oral. It’s today. I’m going to do terribly!”

I have never micro-managed this child. I’ve never had to- he does beautifully in school, and I don’t believe in breathing down his neck unnecessarily. With him, I always leave it up to him- if he doesn’t show up prepared, he pays the consequences.

But clearly, someone f’d up this morning. Whether it was me for not being more on top of him, or him for not remembering to review his oral, that is entirely up for debate. So what did mommy do right then and there? She ran for the knapsack, opened the oral, and phew, I remembered he had done all the work last week. He just needed to review it. So I started to help him review it over breakfast. Yes, I acted as his safety net, and helped spoon feed him the info. Real talk: I didn’t want him to fail his French oral.

My husband on the other hand, heard the commotion in the kitchen and came down to see what was going on.

Husband to son: “If you aren’t going to take your work seriously,  I am going to bench you from hockey. You had an oral, you didn’t care to prepare. Mommy, I think he should have to suffer the consequences here.”

Son is visibly upset- leaves in carpool for school. So what do I do? I call the carpool mom with my son listening on speakerphone, and I remind him not to worry, to be calm, and that he knows his oral because he already prepared last week. The last minute little refresher we did this morning will help him, and he will do just great.

Husband accuses mom of “coddling” child, stating, “He has to learn that we can’t always be there to rescue him.”

I ask you, DOES THIS EVER HAPPEN IN YOUR FAMILY, and just HOW hard is TOO hard? How do we draw the line between helping our children thrive, and giving them a little extra push every now and then, and completely removing that safety net, allowing them to crash and burn?

Lord knows, I’m on the fence. And could use your advice this morning. Where’s my mother tribe?

How Hard is Too Hard?

  1. Oh Erica I have been there. More often with my 13 year old hockey playing daughter though. I do come down on the side of threatening to cancel hockey if school work is not done HOWEVER I just don’t like going to hockey games, so it makes my (assistant coach) husband crazy when I do that. My natural reaction when this happens is to say “Sucks to be you, buddy”, and then I let them either worry or scramble to study by themselves. I have to admit I do not reassure them they’ll do fine as I think a bad mark teaches them to not ignore it the next time.

    I do ask them if they have homework, pretty much every night. If they say no, I believe them. If they are dodging it, it will catch up with them. Disappointing their teacher (especially at a young age) is far more harsh a punishment to them than anything Mom or Dad can dish out.

    But, as my kids say to me “Why can’t you be overprotective like the other Moms?” I kind of like that.

  2. That is even harder to do with special needs kids. I worry my daughter is coddled too much by school staff I want her to be treated like a seven year old as much as possible despite her disabilities. I think it can only help her. As a mom of 4 I struggle with this too for all my kids. My 12 year sometimes just learns best the hard way. I would have done just what you did with your son. Sounds like you also had too good of a weekend for him too even think about french class. I hope he does well on his oral if not I’m sure he learned a good lesson.

  3. Erica your son is 9 not 15. You are the parent. Its your job to make sure his work is done. You did the right thing to support him this am. Your husband is wrong to even threaten him for not completing the work. If hes a good student he knows that he isnt prepared. Thats enough of guilt for him to endure. You did the right thing!!!!

      1. I too think you did the right thing. My kids are now 21,21,and 25 and I have had a lot of time since they all moved out to revisit some of my “parenting perils” and compare what I felt and did then with how they are all doing now. I think a parents job is 3-fold: to lead by example, keep them safe, and be their cheerleader. You were following your instinct and setting a good example for him when he is a father. You showed him one can recover from mistakes in creative ways (i love how you found a way to drill him and calm him by speaker) and also that you are there for him when he comes up short – he is only 9. Life is tough enough and believe me, he will learn the pattern of behavior and consequences all in good time, simply by growing up in this world. I “coddled” my daughter according to her father and others and she is now a scholarship athlete. I think kids’ self-esteem is built brick by brink by the parents. Cheering parents raise happier and therefore more successful kids than their critical counterparts. Keep up the good (great) work!

  4. I believe that age appropriate natural consequences can actually help your child thrive in the long run. Reflection can potentially create greater independence and self-esteem when they know they are in control of something. Many Parents today over compensate and worry too much about what other parents are and aren’t doing. I know someone that actually did their kid’s homework because they were embarrassed about sending the child to school without their homework. She went as far to say “What will the teachers think of me”? Seriously? That, to me is down right ridiculous.
    I don’t think you did anything harmful by supporting him (You didn’t do it for him, he still had to do the oral himself, you didn’t call the school to request a re-do or keep him home like real “Coddling” parents would have). While I agree that at his age and as a parent it’s your job to make sure his work is done, I also believe that it’s your job to teach him responsibility for his actions. So these things, especially at his age, have to be made very clear, in black and white. I personally think in this case he was good to be supported through it, but should be given a warning that if it happens again he’s on his own. If it does happen again, then follow through with consequences.

  5. I am so glad you brought this up. Okay, my son is the same way, he’s a 5th grader now and this is the first time I’ve ever had the I forgots or didn’t cares to deal with from him. It’s such a hard thing to let them fail and when you do you risk the snowball effect of them being overwhelmed. I had a melt down a few weeks ago. For some reason since he feels like since he has the whole weekend to worry about he doesn’t worry about homework on Friday afternoon he doesn’t get it done and we had several Mondays of the same thing you are dealing with the Monday morning freak out because something was finished. After coddling the first time with this behavior I had to do the smack down and cut out activities and until there was change in his behavior. I thought to myself where is his self motivation and desire to learn and achieve? It’s like it evaporated. Even the cutting back on the activities didn’t work. I finally had a sit down and have a heart to heart with him and told him flat out, your grades, your work is your responsibility. If you don’t study, if you don’t complete assignments you are going to suffer the consequences and I am not going to save you anymore. Guess what? When he figured out I was serious there was complete turn around in behavior. Now, he’s the one coming in and telling me how he’s making 100’s on everything, the motivation, the self preservation, the joy of learning is back. What works for one kid make not work for others but for us the line in the sand had to be drawn!

  6. I think in this instance you did the right thing. If this were a recurring issue with your son and you were constantly coming to his rescue then yes, there would be a problem. However, it seems he genuinely forgot that he had his French oral to study for.

    That your son was even worried about possibly not doing well shows that he seems to be a boy that takes his studies seriously. And you know, if he does indeed not do well on this one test it will serve as a good lesson for him. Sometimes the lessons we learn naturally and from making mistakes(which is essential to becoming a better person) are the best consequences we can have.

  7. There is a difference between letting your kids learn from mistakes and forgetting to be their support system. Frankly at any age if a family member or friend, even a co-worker, was panicked, I’d be there to lift them up.

    And let’s be honest. If your son hadn’t put in the time to do the work, there is no way a breakfast crash course would have been sufficient to pass the test. All you did was help him remember what he already learned.

    Personally, I don’t believe you set people up to fail – child or not. Instead, we lend a helping hand, and when mistakes do happen, we help them accept the consequences.

  8. Hi
    We have alot in common. I have always saved her. I was the Mom who got the phone call that she forgot a book, her homework etc.. could I please bring it to school right away. I dropped everything I was doing and went.
    I always kept saying I really shouldn’t be doing this, I am not teaching her consequences, however I knew that it would bring her relief and that is what I felt was most important.
    She is 17 now and the just a sweetheart, is the kind of kid who never forgets to say thank you for the simplest things or apologizes when she is having a bad day and takes it out on me. She will always come to me and say “sorry I was having a bad day you did not deserve that”. So I guess even though I have saved her more times than I can count. She has turned out to be a great person with a huge heart.

  9. You did the right thing. Our job as parents is to teach children the value of time management and taking responsibility for tasks. If you can teach that with love by helping your child cram at the last minute instead of making them feel bad for having forgotten something – bravo. Love and attention always trumps shame and punishment!!!

  10. “helping our children thrive, and giving them a little extra push every now and then”….isn’t that what parents are supposed to do? If the mother bird didn’t push the baby out of the nest, how could he learn to fly?

  11. I am sure that your son learned a very valuable lesson and will be more responsible next time. My kids are older than yours and I stil asked them every Friday night if they have any homework and I remind them that they have to finish their homework before they can do any other activity (including hockey). The first and only time I had to cancel a hockey game, I cried like a baby. It was 3 years ago. It happened only once……

    You are a great mom

    Cathy xx

  12. I’m a single mom of a 12yr old and I have the same illness all moms suffer from: guilt. As I read your story I saw me and my son; since I have to do it all in the house, sometimes homework verification falls through the crack (especially when fun moments are also planned). I try not to dread on these too long and “share” the responsibility: me for not checking, him for not putting hmrk as priority before fun. Life is full of unpredictable moments and showing him how to adapt is also a good. That being said,the rest depends on if you’re “showing him to adapt” every time. That’s what’s not helping him (only givin in to the guilt).

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