“What was more important? Our relationship, or his grades?”
Backing Off, by Denalee Chapman
My husband and I have always had high expectations for our children. When they were younger, I monitored their progress in school through an online platform. Each day I’d log in to look at their current grades and assignments. I made them complete their assignments before they did any fun activities. For the most part they stayed on top of things. But then when Bryan was in high school, he decided to match wits with me.
At first he was just a little slow getting things done. But soon it became a battle between us. When I found out about missing schoolwork, I would take away Bryan’s computer and phone time and even make him go to bed earlier. When he finally completed the assignment, I would call the school and persuade the teacher to accept the tardy work. Day by day our relationship got more strained. I became exhausted and stressed. When I tried to reassure Bryan that I loved him, he would respond with a grunt.
I spent weeks pondering, praying, and studying, trying to figure out a solution to the problem. Finally, I had an epiphany. I realized that my relationship with Bryan was more important than his grades. If I backed off, what was the worst that could happen? He might not graduate. Could I live with that? When I realized that the alternative was staying on the road of constant contention, I decided I could.
Instantly I was filled with immense peace and relief. I loved my son no matter what, and I didn’t want to damage our relationship any further. I knew that my job as a parent was to teach my children and help them on their path to an eternity of progression. I wanted Bryan to become a mature adult who took responsibility for his choices.
That day when Bryan came home from school, I told him that our relationship was more important to me than his grades. I gave him a choice: We could continue the way we had been, with me checking up on him and helping him at every step. Or I could back out completely and let him take care of everything.
“If I back out,” I warned, “I won’t talk your teachers into accepting late work or intervene in any way. Do you want some time to think about this?”
Bryan’s face lit up. He didn’t need any time to decide. He was ready to take full responsibility.
Life got instantly better for both of us. The rift between us healed, and Bryan and I developed a comfortable relationship of love and respect.
For the last two and a half years of Bryan’s schooling, I did not know what his grades were. At first, not knowing made me nervous, but I could see that shifting the responsibility to Bryan was helping him grow. I realized that this approach would not always be the best for each child and circumstance, but my heart told me that the sense of independence my son felt was just what he needed. And what had once taken up a huge chunk of my time and thoughts was no longer an issue.
Bryan graduated with an advanced honors diploma. Later he served the Lord on a mission, using the autonomy we felt inspired to allow him to develop. Bryan has become an instrument in the Lord’s hands, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.
I’m proud by proxy — of Bryan and his mom! – L