Dear Parent: If Your Child Left It Home, Don’t Bring It In


Here’s an interesting article…reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Never do for kids what they can do for themselves, and never do for kids what they can almost do for themselves.”  What do you think about this school’s policy?

A school in Seminole County, Fla., has a rule, clearly posted in the front office: “Attention students and parents: We do not accept items for dropoff such as lunches, backpacks, homework, sports equipment. Please plan accordingly.”

Lake Mary High School is bucking what it saw as a trend: parents coming to the rescue when their children (as children do) forgot what they needed for the day, and didn’t want to deal with the consequences. That sign caught the eye of Leslie Postal, an Orlando Sentinel reporter. “I’d just been at another high school and watched several parents come in with items their kids had forgotten,” she told me, via email, “and, to be honest, I’d recently run a notebook that my son had left in his room over to his high school. So the sign (and the policy behind it) struck me as interesting — and story worthy.” (Read High school cracks down on drop-offs of forgotten items for the principal’s rationale—and the initial reaction of parents to the no-rescue policy.)

Is the school micromanaging parents, or spot on? Motherlode readers (and writers) have long disagreed about whether a parent should deliver that which has been forgotten. Jessica Lahey, who writes the Parent-Teacher Conference here and is the author of “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” rather famously left her son’s forgotten homework on the table even though she was going to the school later that morning anyway.

“We had just been talking about how doing the work wasn’t enough,” she says. “It was his job to get it in his backpack and get it to school.” To her, that was a turning point for her son: He made a list that’s still on the fridge to remind him to take the things he needed in the morning.

In ‘Not Rescuing’ Our Kids Shouldn’t Mean Letting Them Flounder, Catherine Newman argued for a different approach — one that wouldn’t fly at Lake Mary High School. “The basic premise sounds right,” she writes of the idea (although not this specific policy). “Teach your children to take responsibility for themselves by letting them experience the natural consequences of their actions.”

But, “I’m thinking about the pound of flour I spilled on the floor recently, of Ben [her son] rushing in with a broom and his good nature. I picture him saying, instead, ‘Maybe next time you’ll be more careful’ and cringe.” Her proposed middle ground: “Not dependence, not independence, but something more like interdependence, where we acknowledge our mutual reliance, count on cooperation, and nurture generosity, compassion and charity.”

In our family, we straddle a line on this one. The odds are high that we wouldn’t be able or willing to deliver a forgotten item (two working parents, two different schools, one a half-hour away). Only one of the four children even has a phone to text a request. But if the stars align, as they do once in a while, we’ll help you out (and we’ll certainly remind you to grab whatever it is if we can see that you’ve forgotten it). Interdependence. Our children do sometimes point out that it is “not fair” that other people’s parents can drop things off, and perhaps that is part of the point of ruling it out all together (although it’s worth asking whether it’s the children whose parents save them every time who have the advantage, or the ones whose parents do not).

But it would be easy to say you won’t do it unless it’s convenient, and then somehow end up doing it an awful lot, unless (as in our family) circumstances make it all but impossible most of the time. A no-rescue policy would certainly simplify the whole thing. I would welcome it. Would you?

Follow KJ Dell’Antonia on Twitter at @KJDellAntonia or find her on Facebook and Google+.

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