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Monday, May 2, 2016

Are You Too Involved in Your Child’s Schooling?

By Sanna Rogers 

Tricia Williams realized that once her sons reached middle school, she needed to step back and let the boys be in charge of managing their schoolwork and activities.   Photos by Tricia Williams 

Parenting our children through the homework years is never as easy as plugging in the correct mathematical formula. It’s messy. We calculate, we erase, and if all else fails, we guess C. But sometimes our answer is right in front of us.

For Tricia Williams, mother of two teenage sons, the Aha! moment came when Harrison entered high school at North Oldham. As first-time parents, she and her husband, John, were very involved in Harrison’s education. Tricia was hands-on through middle school, checking his backpack for notes, reviewing assignments, always asking questions. Together they made a mental checklist of the day’s agenda. Everything was good — until some of his test scores dropped in ninth grade.

“What I realized as he moved to high school was the mental checklist was not in his head,” says Tricia. “It was in my head. He still had a safety net with me.”

Tricia was reluctant to step back because the consequences for falling behind in high school would be harsher. “I certainly didn’t want to send him into the trenches unprepared, but that’s how he learned.” Harrison adapted quickly with no disasters.

“It had nothing to do with his ability to take the reins and move forward,” she admits. It was all about timing. When younger son David transitioned to North Oldham Middle School two years ago, Tricia adopted a new approach. She was still a guiding hand for the first six months but then gave David the responsibility of “handling his business.” Tricia bit her tongue if he left his homework on the table when he left for school, and she refrained from constant reminding. She knew these were the years to learn about independence inside and outside the classroom when teachers were more understanding.

“You want them to be confident and strong students,” she says. “But not just because they’re fueled by all your reminders.” Her sons know she is there to help if they need her. But at the end of the day, she tells them: “You have to be the implementer. You have to do it!”

Tricia has scaled back her communication with teachers since the elementary years. She wants her sons to be their own first line of defense, engaging their teachers initially to find solutions. “They usually want to handle it because as they get older it’s embarrassing when you step in,” she says.

For her own peace of mind, she has even limited her use of Infinite Campus Portal, an online communication source for checking grades and schedules. When Harrison was in middle school, she was glued to it. “Every time the phone dinged, I thought ‘Oh my gosh! What happened on that quiz?’ It was creating a monster! Like watching the stock market fluctuate.”

Her greatest lesson has been finding balance for her sons and growing right along with them. “Our ability to adapt is the best way to be successful parents.”

Are you a hovering parent? What challenges have you experienced? How did you solve the problem?


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