The “Royal We”

July 19, 2012

Paper DollsAs we anticipate the 2012 Summer Olympics, we cannot help but wonder about the athletes’ parents.  How much cajoling, encouraging and driving to practices had they done over the years?  While they likely provided for and supported their children, they couldn’t practice for them, teach them the finer points of the sport, compete for them or take the hurt ankles or sore muscles in their places.  At some point, they probably had to let go and let their children try and try and try and try and try until they mastered the skills under the tutelage of coaches-all by themselves.  If you are a parent of a special needs child, you have spent years monitoring, mentoring, encouraging, cajoling and redirecting your child’s behavior. Somewhere along the way, your personhood was set aside to focus every moment of your day on your child to the point that the two of you morphed into one person.  That is how the “Royal We” became a member of your family.  “We didn’t take our medicine.”  “We don’t feel well today.”  “We had a nightmare.” “We didn’t understand our math homework.” “We didn’t make our bed.”  “We had a meltdown in the cereal aisle because we wanted Mega Sugar Flakes and we said ‘no’.”  Think about it…do you use the Royal We when you speak about your spouse, your sibling your best friend, your employee or your colleague?  (“We had a bad review.” “We grew a beard.” “We had a migraine.”)  When was the last time you completed the work necessary for your spouse to complete a deadline? You probably don’t because you probably don’t take responsibility for their behavior or their work like you do for your child’s.

Many seasoned professionals at state education agencies have spent years developing and refining curriculum and reasonable expectations that are consistent with your child’s development.  Teachers are trained to only give homework on developmentally appropriate concepts that have already been taught to your child.  Your child’s school success is ultimately his choice and responsibility. You can provide all the ingredients for a great year but, you cannot make it happen for him.  Homework should not take over your family life in the evenings. It is not meant to be a collaborative effort between your child and the rest of the family.  You can provide an appropriate place to study with ample light and supplies for your child. You can be a reader or a scribe for your child.  You cannot be a teacher and re-teach the information nor can you be your child’s surrogate.  In other words, learning fourth grade Math, seventh grade Texas History or eleventh grade Chemistry is your child’s responsibility and problem to solve. If your child doesn’t complete homework (for whatever reason) support and offer suggestions –resist the urge to solve the problem:  “I will be happy to drive you to school early to finish this with the teacher.”  If the teacher and you truly believe that there is more than a lack of motivation and responsibility involved in your child’s learning, then explore that further.

You are a facilitator and a supporter for your child’s academic success.  Completing assignments is about personal effort-not communal effort.  Learning is an individual and voluntary act.  You choose to remember and assimilate information.  (Remember the class you had to take in high school? Do you remember anything you “learned”?) Words usually follow thought and precede action.  They give power to situations and events in our lives.   When you use the Royal We when referring to your child, you are taking away a learning opportunity for your child and you send a silent message:  “I’ll take responsibility for you so you won’t have to”.  Watching your child struggle is difficult and heart-wrenching but, it is important to let your child do so in developmentally appropriate ways. In the end, it is their success and their responsibility.  They have not only achieved learning a new skill, they have reached another dimension in their journey.

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