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The pitfalls of micromanaging kids

John Rosemond, Tribune News Service on

Many times have I warned parents of the pitfalls of micromanaging their children’s academic responsibilities lest said children deduce that the responsibilities in question are not theirs at all and begin acting increasingly irresponsible. Hello? Is there anybody out there?

“I know you say parents shouldn’t micromanage their kids, John,” a parent tells me, “but if I don’t check behind him, he doesn’t do his homework.”

Some parents will do anything it takes to feel useful, even if it means doing what is useless and even counterproductive. The fact is that if you act as if tell you don’t trust your child to do what he is supposed to do, he will prove you correct, even if he shoots himself in the foot in the process. In psycho-lingo, that fact is known as the “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

At least a dozen times in the last several months or so, mothers have told me they “must” check to make sure their kids are properly doing their schoolwork.

“How do you know?” I ask.

“Know what?”

“That if you don’t check behind him, he won’t do his homework?”

Typical answer: “Well, um, because, um, he, um, I mean, he won’t.”

I should mention that the kids in question are boys, usually, and the parents in question are moms, always. No offense, ladies, but moms seem to think their job is to make everything perfect. To clarify, that describes many of today’s moms. The moms of 60-plus years ago did not fit that description at all.


An apt aside: My wife and I are in thrall to a dog named Mazie who enjoys playing “catch me if you can.” Mazie will let us know she wants to be walked, but then, when one of us goes to leash her, she begins darting about, hiding under furniture, running up and down the stairs, and so on and so forth until finally cornered. If, however, when she demands to be walked, we ignore her, she eventually comes to us and humbly submits. Zen dog management.

My point: Like Mazie responds to being chased, the boys in question are responding predictably to being micromanaged – they act as if they require it – and as long as their moms micromanage, they continue to act as such. Micromanagement begets irresponsibility like an egg begets a chicken, or something along those lines anyway.

So, I inform the mothers in question of all that and tell them to do what every fiber of their modern maternal beings protest: to wit, stop checking, even asking. Above all else, do not go to the stupid school homework portal (created by micromanagers to encourage micromanagement). Read a good book. Chew your fingernails. Anything but what you have been doing.

The response on the part of these moms begins with “but.” You can imagine the rest. They quickly discover, however, that I am a better salesperson than they are micromanagers. With great reluctance, and fully expecting the end-times Academic Apocalypse, they agree.

Every single time – mind you, “every single” is not hyperbole – the boy-child in question begins doing his work as if he wanted to do it all along, which he probably did.

The rules of parent-child physics will not be overridden by mere mortals.


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