I’m still getting the hang of this whole “parenting a college guy” thing. Sometimes I worry that I haven’t taught him all he needs to know to survive so far from me. So imagine my delight when I discover one more way he’s doing just fine.
This week I got a call from my college kid. I’m loving that he still calls me when he’s stumped. I drink up each update on his life—the good or the bad. But I don’t like that when bad stuff happens, I can’t rush in and fix it. On this occasion, he was having a problem with the heat in his dorm room. That’s right. I said heat. In New Mexico. In September. His thermostat was malfunctioning and instead of cooling it off nicely, it was blasting heat on high nonstop. He had been fighting a bug so the personal heat wave was not helping. He’d gone to his resident adviser but was told it might be 48-hours until someone could fix it.
Um, no. The mama bear in me came out. I immediately starting wondering who I could call and complain to on a Sunday evening four states away to fix this for my baby boy! And then it hit me, thankfully, that I should not call anyone. This was a great opportunity for my young man to advocate for himself.
I started to give him suggestions of where to go to find a better answer. But here’s the cool part: he was already doing it. He had figured out for himself this was not going to wait 48 hours and there had to be somewhere else he could check. As I gave him my suggestion from my brief two days on campus, he said he was already on his way there.
He didn’t need me to fix anything. He needed to vent his frustration and have someone share the predicament he found himself in. Oh. Ok. I can do that.
I’m still learning how to be a mom to a young man in college and for my particular young man that includes just being his sounding board, not his savior. He wants me to share his experiences. Isn’t that so much better than being responsible for his stuff? Is this what my friends with grown kids were talking about when they said having adult children is awesome? I think possibly, yes.
If you are a parent of younger kids, can I just encourage you to look for ways now to start teaching them to self-advocate? Teach them how to problem solve when they are young and your life will keep getting easier as they grow. When they are struggling with a teacher, brainstorm how and when it would be appropriate for them to discuss concerns with the teacher. If they need back up, go with them but have them share the problem or concern with the teacher, not you. When they feel a rule is unfair, discuss with them the productive and respectful way to approach authority figures to find out why it’s a rule or if there is room for compromise. This type of negotiation is useful in the world we are preparing them for.
Too often we want to fix things for our children because they are ours to keep safe. It’s part of our job. But it’s also our job to teach them to survive when we can’t be there. For years, I’ve been trying to do this with my kids. Imagine my surprise to learn it worked.
When we teach our children to problem solve on their own instead of relying on us to fix things, we help them grow into adults that can creatively handle the unexpected life throws at them. What an amazing gift to give our kids.
What is one way you’ve empowered your kids to self-advocate? Please share your stories in the comments.
Picture: Benjamin Combs courtesy of Unsplash.com