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I’ve said on many occasions how there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my son. I’m sure if I asked you you’d say the same about your kids.

And while that may be a noble, heart-felt position many of us parents hold, knowing where to draw the line between “doing anything” and actually hurting your child is crucial.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are many parents out there who don’t know where to draw that line, and the current generation of kids is being hurt by it.

We’ve seen a very public example of this in the recent college admissions scam, also known as “Operation Varsity Blues”. This scandal “exposed a criminal conspiracy to influence undergraduate admissions decisions at several top American universities” according to Wikipedia.

Fifty people were indicted, including several high-profile actors, for crimes such as mail fraud and money laundering to buy spots for their kids into top universities.

As a parent of a high school junior who is now actively researching colleges (some which were implicated in this scandal), taking entrance exams, and working diligently on his studies as he prepares for his next chapter, as well as a mom and parenting educator who knows the benefits of supporting your kids to independently pursue their goals, I find this situation infuriating.

My son works hard to achieve top grades, chooses extracurricular activities that he is passionate about, and has specific desires for his college experience. And he’s putting in the effort to achieve those desires on his own merit.

To his credit, he makes many good choices that continue to propel him down his chosen path.

But that said, he has also certainly made some poor choices that could impact which college he ends up at. However, I know that through his mistakes and the lessons they generate, he’ll learn through how to make better choices. He will grow through the challenging experiences he creates.

Who you become and your ability to create success is a product of your choices.

When we take away from our children important life choices, whether consciously or through the lens of “doing anything” to help our kids, we hinder their growth and can keep them from finding their true path. We can literally limit how far they spread their wings, how high they soar, and how closely they become the person they are meant to be.

As parents, it is important that we teach our kids how to look for possibilities, evaluate their choices, and work through their mistakes.

It’s important to show them how to determine the potential consequences of their choices and decide if they are willing to accept the consequences, good or bad. This is good decision making, and it’s something we owe it to our kids to teach them.

But, like in the college admissions scandal, when you involve yourself in your child’s future to the point of making decisions FOR them (especially without their knowledge) or manipulating outcomes, you rob your child of many valuable experiences and growth opportunities that their choices and inevitable mistakes will afford them.

Influencing your child’s choices in this way, you rob your child of the opportunity to create their own life on their terms. You hinder the growth and development of internally created feelings of inner confidence and a sense of empowerment.

And if that’s not bad enough, you can permanently damage trust as well as your relationship with your child.

For one of the players in this scandal, these consequences have occurred. Lori Loughlin’s daughter had her business and reputation ruined. Word on the street is that she is not speaking to her mother.

Can you blame her?

So, let’s come back to the idea of balancing the “do anything for my child” mentality with letting go and letting them fail. Where do you draw that line?

It’s pretty simple.

Stop doing for your child what they can do for themselves, EVEN if you would get a better outcome for them.

Let go of the need for their life to look like what YOU want it to look like.

Stop using your child’s life to boost your own feelings of self-worth.

Stop living vicariously through your child.

Instead, support THEIR dreams and desires.

Learn what is important to THEM. What do THEY care about?

I’m not saying this is an easy mindset shift. We all want to set our kids up for success.

But we harm our children and our relationship with them when we push on them OUR NEED for them to have a certain kind of life.

Does this mean you can’t give your opinion?

Of course not. Share your views if you feel that is important. Teach them how to evaluate options. Give them guidance on HOW to make decisions. Show them how to play the likely consequences of each choice all the way through, and see if they’re willing to live with those consequences.

What about when it comes to doing nice things for your child that they can do for themselves? Am I suggesting you can’t do nice things for your kids if they are capable of doing it themselves?

Not at all. Example: I still make my son’s lunch EVERY DAY. Without fail.


Because we had a conversation about him taking on this task in high school. He shared that while he could make his lunch, it makes his mornings so much smoother when I do it for him (well duh!).

He told me how grateful and happy he feels when I do make his lunch for him.

And even though it would be easier for me if he made his own lunch, it makes ME happy to do this for him too because it feels good to do nice things for those we love, especially when they appreciate it so much.

So, I continue to make his lunch and I will do so until he moves out and goes to college :/.

How do I know this isn’t harming him or crossing that line between doing anything for him and letting him fail (if it comes to that)?

And more importantly, how do YOU know if the nice things you do for your kids are harming them?

Whenever you’re evaluating whether to continue doing something for your child he can do for himself, whether that is making your child’s bed in the morning or helping her with her college essay, you can use these 4 questions as a guide:

  1. If I do this, will it hurt anyone else?
  2. Am I doing this for my child, or for myself? (Dig deep on this and be honest with yourself)
  3. How could this go wrong?
  4. Am I willing to accept the consequences of it going wrong?

In the case of making my son’s lunch, here is how I would answer these 4 questions:

  1. If I do this, will it hurt anyone else?
    • No
  2. Am I doing this for my child, or for myself?
    • My child – he greatly appreciates this gesture as we’ve talked about it. Now, I do receive joy from doing this, but I’m not doing it TO feel this joy – that is just a side benefit. I’d also feel joy if I saw him making his own lunch.
  3. How could this go wrong?
    • He might not learn how to make his lunch while still at home when I can easily help him.
  4. Am I willing to accept the consequences of it going wrong?
    • Yes, because he is smart and capable and will figure out how to make his lunch and will ask questions if he needs to. It is not going to significantly impact his life.

Now, consider how you would apply these 4 questions to the college admissions scandal. I’m sure you’ll see how different the answers look than they do in the lunch example.

We have got to stop the “I’d do anything” which often becomes the “at all costs” mentality, especially when it comes to our kids.

Because it may just cost you your child’s self-esteem, self-respect, relationship with them, and even their ability to be well-adjusted, confident individuals in society who thrive and create a life they can feel good about.

I love my child too much to risk those costs.