10/01/2014 03:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

My Dad Ate My Homework

The voice on the other end of the phone was desperate. The voice on the other end of the phone was panicked. The voice on the other end of the phone was my daughter and she was about to be floored. On this day she called from school saying she'd left her homework folder at home... and I let her fail.

She asked me to bring the folder.
I put my foot down and said no.
She told me it would be MY fault.
I told her it was HER responsibility.
She hung up on me.
I felt like crap.

I thought about it for a long while. Sure, I could have brought her homework to school and saved her. But why? This was the real lesson. I made my case to other parents online. And then an amazing thing happened... everyone started telling me THEIR stories. Comment after comment came in from parents who had been there... or are there now. One parent said she had enabled her son for 30 years... but not anymore. Another parent said they did the same thing for their kids growing up and now their teens are organized and responsible. One parent summed it up as "stay consistent and persistent." Then I heard from teachers who said "thank you" for making my child take responsibility for her actions. As one teacher eloquently put it: "school is a practice run for later in life and NO ONE is going to bail them out later." So true.

It's not easy making the tough parenting choices. This isn't the big one. Hopefully it stays that way. I work with someone who often says "misdemeanors turn into felonies," and the same can be true when it comes to kids' behavior. How can we teach them responsibility and respect if we don't hold them accountable for their actions?

Today it was fallout day. My daughter said with a snarky sarcasm of a 9-year-old tween going on 15: "THANKS for bringing my homework to me yesterday dad." I told her with the seriousness of a parent trying to do the right thing and teach the right lessons and prepare her for the real world, "you're welcome". The conversation ended.


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