Content from Fathers Helping Fathers
“That’s your grade.”
One of the hardest things for parents to do is leave our lazy kids alone. They live in our house; they need to do what we tell them to do when we tell them to do it. They need to clean their room, when we want them to. They need to take out the garbage, when we want them to. They need to shut up, when we want them to. It is no surprise that for many of them, the one last bastion of control they feel they have becomes doing their homework, when they want to.
Frustrating isn’t it? But remember when we were kids?
How many times have you heard someone say their son or daughter is not living up to his or her potential? How many times has a teacher told you your child should be getting better grades, if they would just apply themselves? How many times have our wives said, things would be better if we men just tried a bit harder? Have many times? Try the bible. Seven times seventy is one number. It’s a chorus we all know.
Recently, my older son had a project that was due in school. This project was assigned in plenty of time for him to get it done. And of course he’s learned from the cultivated procrastinators in our house—mom and dad—there is always tomorrow. I urged him. I cajoled him. I threatened him with possible grounding, all to no avail. Then finally the light bulb went off, and dad had an ‘aha’ moment. “That’s your grade.”
That’s what I tell my students all the time. As much as I try to get them to complete things on time…I have a deadline, and if they don’t meet it, it’s not my problem. So I told my son. “That’s your grade.”
He wanted to skip the class. I told him if he skipped the class, the school would give him an unexcused absence. I thought about telling him he was forbidden from skipping, but then, what control do I have to enforce this? I’m not at school. So I told him if he skipped, it would be listed, and he’d have to suffer the consequences at home. I told him it was his grade, and if he wanted to get a bad grade…then fine!! And I went to bed.
Sometimes we parents have to quit enabling our kids to avoid doing their job. School is their job. If they neglect school now, they will blame us for letting them neglect it. If they neglect school now, it will be their fault for not excelling, but it remains our job to do what we can to make them measure up. Measuring up may not mean making A’s all the time. Measuring up may not mean going to school everyday. Measuring up may not mean finishing an assigned task. However, measuring up does mean being able to look at yourself and knowing you did your best. Measuring up means picking the right fight to win the war, and ignore battles we can’t win. Measuring up ultimately means showing up. Sometimes, that’s all we as men can do. Sometimes, that’s enough.
I’d like to tell you I have the answers to all your issues. I don’t. I’d like to be able to tell you what book to read that will help you. I can’t. I’d like to be able to give my sons a cheat book, to make things easier for them the rest of their lives, but I know that’s not going to happen. Because each of them will have a different course, as my friend Smiley Williams told me. We need to accept that, dads. We need to realize that not all of our sons will be doctors, lawyers, or NBA players. We also need to realize: “that’s okay.” Our job is to help, encourage, and push them into being all they can be, even if it means letting them fall.
That’s right. Sometimes we have to take the training wheels off, let them fall a few times because they understand, when they fall, it will be their knees they skin, their head they hurt [if they forgot their helmet] or ‘F’ they get. It’s their grade.
So what happened? Well…I slept fine. I went to my office, taught my classes and resolved I’d done all I could. His mom went to get him, so he wouldn’t have to skip his class, and low and behold…he’d finished his work. It was his grade. He took full responsibility for the fact, he didn’t want the consequence I’d promised. He didn’t want the bad grade he knew he would get. Most of all, he realized he did have control of his life. Education is a valuable measurement stick of how far we can go. And the sooner we allow them to flutter, the sooner our little butterflies will be able to fly.
Dads…give them some room. Tell them what they need to hear. Be there, not to keep them from falling, but to help them up if they do fall. That’s when they need to hear, not “I told you so,” but “let me know when you’re ready to try again.” And that’s the best lesson…we men who become fathers can teach. We can teach the lesson that it’s okay to fail, as long as our kids understand and know, failing is just a stop in a journey toward success. Let’s do this together dads…encouraging each other, and encouraging our children to realize “it’s not our grade…” but theirs!