Mrs Ola watched her son Paul, make his way through the crowd to where their family was seated, grinning from ear to ear. It was his high school graduation day and a proud mother moment for her, considering the fact that they had come a long way from where this journey started 4 years ago. She had thought that the end had come for her son and the family as a whole at the time but they had come out of all of it stronger.
The Olas had been blessed with a son and a daughter having several years of trying to conceive and rounds of IVF, hence it was only natural that their world revolved around their children. From the time they were born, everything was done for them and it was made expressly clear that the children were special.
It was clearly communicated to their teachers from the time they were in kindergarten class. Mrs Ola made sure that she employed tutors who did their assignments for them so that they would not be stressed. When they were dropped off at school, they would be escorted to the door of the classrooms. Other children were told to treat them delicately and avoid any ‘rough play’ with them.
Whenever the children brought home a negative report from school about their classmates or teachers, their parents would storm the school and cause trouble for whoever was responsible. It didn’t matter if the children were the ones at fault, because in the eyes of their parents they could do no harm. They were never responsible for anything.
At home, the only thing the children did on their own was breathe. Their parents scheduled their activities for them, chose their food, their clothes and even their friends. Everything was done to protect them from the ‘wickedness in the world’ as their mother put it.
Everything seemed to go on smoothly until they had to go to boarding school as senior high school students and then the unravelling began. For the first time in their lives they had to make decisions and do things for themselves and things went terribly bad.
The complaints from their roommates about their poor personal hygiene kept increasing as well as their lack of social and interpersonal skills. There were frequent reports of incursive behaviour meted out by the Ola kids on other students because they always insisted on having their way. Their academic performance also left a lot to be desired with a steady decline accompanied by verbal attacks on the teachers.
For the first time in their lives, Mr and Mrs Ola realised that their parenting method had produced children who could not survive on their own. They also could not withdraw them from that school in particular because it was the most suitable school for their future university plans. It was a scary prospect for them as they realised that their ‘good intentions’ had literally set their children up for failure.
The couple decided to set up a meeting with the school’s family counselling team to seek their assistance and craft an intervention process for their children. It was recommended that their son repeat a class as part of the corrective action and the boy had taken it rather badly. He told his parents that they no longer loved him because if they did, they wouldn’t let him be humiliated by repeating a class. Even though their hearts were breaking, they firmly informed him that the decision was final and in his best interests.
In allowing their children to start taking age-appropriate responsibility for their actions and bearing consequences, the children cumulatively improved. The bad reports from school flipped into good reports. Their daughter graduated a year earlier than her brother as the class valedictorian. This year, their son who had made astounding progress graduated with awards in both academics and soft skills and was headed to university on a fully paid sports scholarship.
It is important for us as parents to know how to balance positively supporting our children with allowing them develop independently. Over involvement in child’s life can lead to more harm than good.