Our children came to visit us in Rome last week. We had good weather, food and many amazing sights to see. One day as we were walking down the street, my almost college graduate Abby turned to me and half-accusingly said, “I have told all my friends that you made me call the dentist for my own appointments, when I was a teenager!” I chirped right back—”You betcha baby!” I remember being a young mother and hearing friends make appointments for their college age children. I remember thinking, “What the? They are over 18! They are in college!” That started me on a quest to have my children take over all the calling needed to run their lives when they became 12. I remember one time in particular, one son had to call the library for something. Oh the anguish! He followed me around for 20 minutes complaining, coaxing, imploring me to do it. I held firm. I said gently, “You can do it! I know you can!” Finally, finally, he did it. I can’t even tell you the triumph he felt after he did that. The happy dance! The singing! It was just a basic phone call. But I have found over the years that when you encourage your child to make their own calls–and you can even sit right there with them–you get the celebration of life afterwards because they realize—”Oh!—That wasn’t that bad!”
It is the thought itself, more than the doing of it, that can paralyze.
In A Leader’s Guide to Welfare: Providing in the Lord’s Way, the whole church Welfare system operates on this fundamental principle—”God never forsakes us but He does not do what we can do for ourselves.” That is also foundational parenting principle. Your children can do this! I had my kids arrange their musical numbers in church over the phone, talk to the orthodontist, the pharmacy, the doctor and when they had to cancel something they just couldn’t text. They had to call with their bad news.
Another great skill to learn is letting them be in charge of their own fundraisers. I have had plenty of requests from parents to help with their child’s sale of oranges or magazine’s. I tell them to have their child call me and I would be happy to contribute. When anybody in my ward or neighborhood emails me for donation I reply back that I would love to help if they would come and talk to me. I don’t respond to gofundme emails I get from teenagers going on a special charity trip or educational opportunity . I do email back and say, “Please come and talk to me about this amazing experience you are going to have. I would love to contribute but I need to understand more about it.”
These phone calls and fundraisers are exactly the perfect way to have your child squirm, sweat and labor over something that isn’t that hard. As they text more and more, and call less and less, allowing them to step up to their own plate will immeasurably help them. If we cocoon our children from these ways to practice and perfect their calling/contact muscle, we actually helping them to be more afraid to do it.
Here is a wall street journal video about a course to on the upper east side in New York City that helps children with their social skills. It costs 500.00 for an after school 12 week course. The kids are super cute. At minute 2:20 they show practicing with phones because one 10 year old admits “she gets really nervous talking on the phone.” The little girl right after her is unbelievably adorable. She admits, “I eat with my hands, I am really messy, I get food in my hair…”
I also recall an article that I couldn’t find which talks about “friends” you can hire for 120.00 an hour to introduce you to people at parties in a college setting. Can you see where this is taking us?
Unfortunately, in my view, a course or a coach isn’t as effective as a mother or father in the trenches, training all the time. I asked Abby later what brought up her random statement about me making her call people. She said, “Oh, we had to be assertive in the gelato place because there were so many people, and I had to speak up!”
Wow. Crisis averted! I am glad I have trained my children to speak up when they are ordering ice cream. Maybe that will lead to them being able to date, get married and land a job!