Parenting by Omission, or a Leg Up in Life

lego legs

Lego Parenting

Sometimes parenting lessons come from unusual sources. One of our little ones came to me with a problem: “Mama,” she announced, “the leg on my Lego priest broke off.” She held up for my examination the Lego mini-figure wearing glasses, black pants, and a black shirt.

Hmm. I glanced over casually while continuing to put clothes in the dryer. “Can it be fixed?”

“I dunno…”  A frown of concentration came over her face, and her eyes narrowed as she peered more closely at the mini-figure. “I think…if I can just push this leg onto that part that sticks out..I did it!” She flashed a triumphant grin at me before exiting the scene. That look on her face told me that I had done exactly the right thing – which was nothing.

Sometimes, Less is More

I coined this behavior of mine “parenting by omission.” I use this  parenting principle when I restrain myself from interfering in a situation when my child, with some initiative and effort, is in a good position to succeed without my assistance. I simply asked the question to give her a little impetus to check out the situation and see if she could come up with a solution on her own.

I use this very important parenting technique to slowly develop initiative, confidence, responsibility, and the ensuing success in our children.

  • Initiative: when I don’t do something, but the child knows something should be done, the child often takes the initiative to see what can be done in the situation
  • Confidence: it takes confidence in the child to try to work out a solution to the problem
  • Responsibility: when the child takes action to try to solve the problem, the child is taking responsibility for the outcome, whether successful or not
  • Success – or not: the child tastes success when the problem is solved, or tastes failure; failure, when approached properly, should propel  further attempts until the problem is solved

Omission in Action

I used parenting by omission when I explained to my children that I was happy to do the laundry for the family, but that I would only wash the clothes that had been properly sorted into our four-compartment laundry sorter (one of my favorite domestic possessions, by the way). This mom’s job description does not include hunting for dirty clothes around the house!

I also used this same principle when my soon-to-be college-bound child asked, “Mom, can I use the same letter of recommendation for the summer program application that I use for my regular college application?”

I simply replied, “Honey, that is a great question for the admissions director.” She decided to send him an email. Again, I commented on the situation, but I did nothing.

It is very satisfying to see the fruits of seeds planted when our children were very small…