Velcro Doesn’t Foster Independence.

It amazes me that something as simple as Velcro sneakers can actually makes things harder, but they can!

velcro shoes

Wait, what? If my child is struggling with tying his shoes, making every departure one giant meltdown, Velcro has to be a better option. I mean, that is what they were designed for, right? Well, technically they probably were created to ease stress, but with a high price tag.

You are familiar with the scenario: It is time for school, the outfit has been out on the floor since the kiss goodnight, breakfast is done, and now it’s time to get out the door.

With cute little sneakers in hand, your 5-year-old proudly slides his feet into his shoes and then begins to grasp the shoe laces ever so carefully as you whisper, “one bunny ear, two bunny ear…”

You can feel your heart race a bit as you witness his third attempt and you can see his confidence begin to wane. Your confidence in his ability, along with your concerns of being late begin to collide. You picture the tantrum from the morning before and do your best to give one last pep talk.

“Be patient, honey. Over, under, around and through…” you say calmly feeling the pounding in your chest.

“I can’t do it!?” He screams. “I cant! I hate these shoes! I’m not going to school…”

And so it begins. Another morning of upset. You then do what you do. You help out. You explain how hard this task is and how it will get easier over time. Then you tie his shoes, acknowledging that you can tie them tighter anyway. He feels happy, and so do you. Yet as it keeps happening over and over each morning, you offer less and less time for him to try, until you eventually begin to tie them the second he has his feet in the shoes.

What could possibly be the harm in that? Eventually everyone learns to tie their shoes…dont they?

The harm actually has little to do with the shoe-tying meltdown. The larger problem we are contributing to is keeping our children from experiencing discomfort. While we believe in our hearts we are helping, we are continuously robbing them of their ability to manage discomfort. We are single-handedly stealing their opportunity to man handle things that don’t feel right. And in the large scheme of life as we know it, we are contributing to a society of emerging adults that do not know how to get themselves out of uncomfortable situations because we have been doing it for them. While that help comes from a yearning to make their life easier, we are actually trying to avoid our own discomfort by helping them to avoid theirs.

The large problem lies right there.

We must know what discomfort feels like in order to be successful adults. We must experience it simply so we can experience the triumph that comes along with lifting ourselves up. While we want to convince ourselves that this is how we show our love, this is not a loving gesture at all. In fact, doing things for others that they can do for themselves simply robs them of their opportunity for success.

It starts with a simple act of ‘over, under, around and through….’ and leads to dangerous times of isolation and peer pressure and days of now what am I supposed to do? The discomfort our children/emerging adults experience when we are not around, can lead to feelings of desperation and hopelessness. These feelings can contribute to the yearning to tune-out, possibly leading to addictive behaviors that allow them to not feel disappointment or fears. It can lead to feelings of failure and disconnect and can perpetuate a hidden downward spiral.

One emerging adult client I worked with shared his experience of overwhelm and stress he felt in college and turned to alcohol and drugs to mask all that he could not cope with. When I asked him if he ever thought about trying to quit his addictive behaviors, he said simply, “there was no reason to think about quitting…it was the darkest hole I had ever been in and knew I was never getting out.”

Fortunately, he was given a second chance with many months of recovery. But all are not as fortunate. The crisis is real. And while as parents we do not cause our children’s depression, isolation or addictive behaviors, we can contribute by continuing to push them further in that dark hole by doing for them. Or we can begin to actually help, by allowing them the success they are capable of and deserve.

So, the next time you are unsure of whether your help is helpful or hurtful, ask yourself this question: Is this something that they are capable of doing themselves? Because if it is, let them. Take a few extra breathes. Be mindful that their discomfort is just like yours and that life is never about how we fall, but how we learn to dust off and get back up.

Want to really foster independence? Skip the velcro.

Motherhood. When Giving is not Loving.

There were many things in my life I didn’t understand right way. There were things I had to study for, take notes on, research and then even start over again before being able to really comprehend it. But being a mother, was not one of those things. Not to say I didn’t do my research, but once my babies were in my arms, I barely remembered the things I had read about. What I knew was a deep love that did not need comprehending. It did not need definitions or explanations.

I will never forget the way my first-born son looked deep into my eyes, as if he could see into my soul. I will never forget feeling like he oddly understood it. Like he was saying, “okay, so you are the one that will always keep me safe.” That look like he too understood…that our eyes meeting, and our souls connecting was all this journey was going to need. Maybe he knew more than I️ did.

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nt I had gone from pregnant, to mom and knew that my job from here forward was simply to love and protect this one sweet angel, which then turned into two sweet angels. I remember constantly thinking, "I will always keep you safe.”

False. We cannot always keep our children safe, nor is that always our job. So what is our job?

It is only recently that I have been able to transform that word into responsibility and only recently that I have been able to ask myself, ‘what is my responsibility?

I never thought of myself as an average mom. I didn't just become a mom, I had an amazing love for my babies that could not be described. I had a yearning to care for, love, and give to them in a way I had never experienced. It wasn’t that I️ thought they couldn’t do for themselves, but was more about the overwhelming joy I got from giving. Whether it was folding their clothes just so, baking the goodies that warmed their hearts (or at least made them smile broadly) or making their lunches just so…was about me. It was how I showed my love for them. It was what I created as the thing that reminded them every day how much they were loved.

So what could possibly be wrong with that? Nothing actually.

When your child can't tie his shoes, you tie them. When your child is too young to use the stove, you cook his meals. When your child isn't tall enough to reach the washer, you wash his clothes. But at some point our definition of being mom gets confusing, and our purpose gets convoluted. The way we give becomes defined by the actual things we give or do…for them.

Giving, is not necessarily loving.

When your 7-year-old comes home and says he needs crayons for school, you get them. That is being a responsible parent. That is not love, though, that is responsibility. When your 20-year-old comes home and says he needs red pens for class and you run out to the store while he sits in front of the tv, that is not love. That is giving, but a different kind of giving. That kind of giving actually robs your child of ‘responsibility’. It crossed the line of helping into enabling.

Helping is doing for others when they cannot do it for themselves. Enabling is doing for others when they are capable of doing for themselves. Enabling – that which hijacks another’s opportunity for success. Ugh!

The first time I heard that I felt sick to my stomach. My brain began to scroll the hundreds of things a day that I had done for family members, that I felt were done simply to show my undying love for them. I was certain that giving was loving. I mean, if I wasn’t giving, then how would they know I loved them?

That is the million dollar question. For myself, what I have learned is that my constant giving was not as selfless as I once had thought. It seemed that if I was giving to others before giving to myself, then I was being selfless. That is what motherhood is all about, isn’t it? Apparently not.

Apparently if we are doing this motherhood thing the way it should be done, in a way that produces 18 year olds that are self-sufficient, independent and successful, then we should be working our way out of a job. What?! Trust me, that was never a part of my vocabulary. I wanted to be ‘mommy’ forever. I loved the job, the title, the satisfaction and pure joy it gave me. There was nothing more rewarding than this…Until, that is, I was forced to look at the aftermath of what I had created.

I was forced to look at how my constant doing was robbing the very beings in my family of their own independence. Stealing their opportunity for success. Convincing them without words that my way was not only better, but that perhaps they weren’t even capable at all without my help.

Neither of those things were true. I never believed my way was the best or only way and always knew they were capable of success without my help.

So why was I️ doing things they were capable of handling on their own? Why was I️ doing those things before they even asked for help? Why was my go-to always, “Oh, don’t worry…I’ll get it.”

Simple. It was how I showed my undying love. Right? Well…no. It wasn’t about that at all. Instead, although I didn’t know it at the time, it was really about me and my desire to feel needed. I mean, if I didn’t do for them, then why would they need me? Seems simple and harmless but actually has some negative consequences. Ones that keep our emerging adults from learning what to do with feelings of discomfort. Ones that keep our emerging adults from learning what to do in the face of challenges. Ones that keep our emerging adults dependent upon us…just the opposite of our hopes and dreams for them.

Motherhood is hard for sure, but finding a balance between helping and enabling is where the rubber meets the road. You can do this. Just keep asking the question: Am I helping because they are unable, or am I stealing their opportunity for success?

If you keep practicing, you will soon be able to see which kinds of giving gestures are simply acts of love…that which build strong family love and success.