It's Zits comic time again:
JEREMY: (at his computer, talking to his mom) "I'm supposed to edit this 15 minute power point presentation down to 5 minutes by tomorrow.
MOM: (kissing Jeremy's forehead) Poor Baby
JEREMY: That's it? You're not offering to do it for me???
OK, I admit it when my daughter was in first grade I got a "smiley face" on her Social Studies diorama. But as hard as it was, and even after listening to ear-splitting tantrums and swear laced language voicing hatred at the teacher that assigned some stupid project, I too gave her the kiss on the forehead and a "poor baby, " and left her alone to do her thing, be the outcome good or bad, it would be her outcome.
I was talking to a friend the other day who was telling me about a family she knew where the Dad basically wrote all his teen's papers. And he did quite well on them. Fast forward to his daughter as a college student. Thank the computer gods, because the dad was still in business. And yes, Grad School applications, yup, Dad again. And now as a Grad student she is finally on her own, and guess what, she is lost. What a surprise! Maybe the Dad's goal was to get her into a good college, check! Get her into a good grad school, check! But writing about her graduate practicum, research papers, and exams, he is of no use now, and the daughter is in a panic, completely unprepared for the hard work it takes to do something "all by yourself." This dad did his daughter no favors.
In the extremely competitive world we live in, its hard not to want to protect your kids from stress, and want to give them "the edge" over other smart and talented teens. But developing skills in frustration tolerance and sticking with something until you finish is a very important life lesson. These skills not only translate to academic pursuits, but friendships, careers, and even to marriage. When you teach them that someone else can and will 'fix it" when something is too hard or stressful, you communicate that quitting is good. What they take that philosophy into life with them it can go like this: I don't like this job, I'll just quit and get another one, and if I don't like that one, I'll quit it too. Or, this relationship is too hard, I don't feel like working through the hard stuff, I think I'll just get a divorce and get another marriage, and so on. The buck will finally hit when they have kids of their own. Not so easy to quit your kids!
Be there for them, acknowledge their frustration, help them to develop a strategy, but don't do it for them. If you are looking for your kid to reflect your glory, go find another mirror!