The Most Responsible Children Come From Responsible Adults.

While wandering the halls of middle school, I ran into a student I recognized. I couldn’t quite place her, and I assumed it was because she’d grown substantially since I last saw her. In middle school, people range from tiny to monstrous, so I figured that she’d grown at least a foot.

And then I remembered her name.

“Are you Tina?” I blurted, incredulous. She’d grown maybe two feet since I’d last seen her, at least two years ago.

“I am,” she said.

“Oh my gosh!” I sputtered, like I was in the presence of greatness. “You played the guitar in the talent show! And you practically ran the show! You’re the most responsible and mature person I ever met!”

Upon saying this, I realized two things. First, I probably embarrassed her – although no one else was around to hear me – except a teacher who chimed in, “Yes, she is!”

Second, I also know two girls from another family who are equally mature and responsible. So I may have exaggerated a bit to Tina.

But the whole experience gave me reason for pause.

I remember meeting Tina when I was a supervising parent for the elementary school talent show. She played the guitar, which was nice, but she also had a real take-charge attitude backstage. She was in charge of making sure all the other students were ready when it was their turn, sending them on stage and shuttling them off.

Tina handled the show like an old pro – like a Broadway old pro. I asked Dylan about her later. “Do you know that 5th grader, Tina?”

“Who?” he asked.

“The one who makes sure you’re on stage. Tina – you know, she plays guitar?”

“Oh her,” he said. “Yeah, but she’s in third grade.”

“No she isn’t,” I said. “She was practically running the show!” Tina is a full year younger than Dylan.

“Yeah,” he said. “But she’s in third grade.”

Stunned, I had to wonder how someone can be that responsible at the age of 8. And now that’s she’s taller, I recognize that she’s related to a girl in Dylan’s grade – her sister Vivian, who is also quite responsible.

And since that long-ago talent show, I’ve gotten to know another family with two girls who are also wise, mature and responsible beyond their years.

And that’s how I learned that parenting matters.

I realize that girls are more inclined than boys to be mature. But I’ve noticed, too, that the most responsible and mature children come from responsible, mature adults.

Parents who show respect for their kids teach respect. Parents who trust their kids can trust their kids. Parents who allow their kids to be independent thinkers and doers, who don’t correct and change their kids’ choices, who guide but do not demand … those are the parents whose kids grow into wonderful adults.

Best of all, the kids learn this from Day One – so they mature early.

Unfortunately, I am realizing this way too late to fix what I’ve already messed up. I’ve been correcting my boys since they came out of the womb. I’ve been instructing and changing and demanding the entire time.

(This comes from a deep sense of insecurity, which causes me to try to control everything.)

In other words, I realize I haven’t done it all right. In fact, I’ve done a lot wrong.

But I can try, today, to respect and trust and guide. I can work on that for myself. At the very least, maybe I can become a better role model for my kids, who are maturing at their own pace.

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