Parenting Basics: “You Need to Stand on Your Own Two Feet”

Grandma was right! There is an easy way and a hard way to raise kids. By and large, today’s parents are choosing the hard way. This series of blogs will tackle familiar phrases that used to be commonplace but fell out of favor during the last few decades of the 20th century—and why parents should not be afraid to follow the sentiment expressed in the phrases.
Image courtesy of Gualberto107/
A recent Wall Street Journal article asked, “Should You Bring Mom and Dad to the Office?” The story focused on the growing trend of Millenials—the generation born between the 1981 and the early 2000s—who are arriving at job interviews with a resume and their parents. This group of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings “are much closer to their parents than previous generations, and they have gained a reputation for being coddled by so-called helicopter parents.”
Some employers, who once balked at the practice, have slowly begun to embrace the presence of parents at the interview stage—and beyond. For example, the Wall Street Journal article quoted a Northwestern Mutual executive who “does everything it can to accommodate the parents of college-aged interns, including regularly inviting them to the office for open houses. … Some Northwestern Mutual managers call or send notes to parents when interns achieve their sales goals and let parents come along to interviews and hear details of job offers. They may even visit parents at home.”
Apparently, some parents have forgotten to employ the phrase, “You need to stand on your own two feet,” to any great effect with their offspring. My mother would say this whenever I started to ask her for help with my homework—worksheets, I might add, that I was perfectly capable of doing myself but was too lazy to extend the brain effort required.
Telling a child to stand on his own two feet is another way of encouraging him that he can do the task at hand, that within himself are the necessary skills and abilities to finish, start, complete or tackle whatever mountain is standing before him. Homework, learning to ride a bike, putting together a puzzle—those are some of the things that kids sometimes ask for assistance when they can do it themselves.
Parents of yesteryear knew that a child usually asked for help as the first resort, not after the child has wrestled with something for an extended period of time and still couldn’t figure it out. A child will always try to take the path of least resistance, and that’s when parents need to pull out the phrase, “You need to stand on your own two feet” to prod the child to work more towards his independence.
Grown children who allow mom and dad to accompany them on job interviews haven’t learned how to stand on their own two feet. They are missing out on a key component to success in life: learning how to lead a life of independence. That dependence on parents starts when a child is young, too young to realize his own need to try and fail, to fall and get back up, which is really what teaching a child to stand on his own two feet is all about. Having that skill is much better than dragging Mom and Dad along to a job interview—and one that will produce an independent and successful adult in the process.
This month, Sarah will be giving a series of talks on The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline that Really Works through the City of Fairfax Parks and Recreation Department. Also in October, Sarah and Mary Elizabeth Peritti will speak on Parenting With Love & Leadership in a four-part webinar series. Contact Sarah through her website for more information.



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