Parenting From the Sideline

So the story goes something like this… three days before my teenage son Myles’ (not his real name) progress report was due, he text me to say “Mom, I need a tutor for math.”

In a normal situation a parent would commend their teenage child for taking this initiative.  However, this is not a normal situation.  Myles who is currently in grade 11, has always taken the laid back approach to high school and his grades.  As parents we push, coerce, force, threaten and sometimes hold their hand, but sometimes nothing changes, this was this case with Myles.


We spent many a day taking him to tutors over the years and having his older cousins speak with him, but neither his marks or laid back approach showed no improvement, nor was he any more serious with his studies.  So in grade 11, we made the decision we will no longer coerce or hold his hand. We instead decided to sit on the sideline.

Many conversations happened with Myles at the beginning of the current school year. He responded by being irritated and stating “I’m fine. I’m now ready to get serious, let me do it on my own.” So, we sat on the sideline.

Fast forward two months later, “mom I need a tutor.” My first reaction was to scream “I am not coming off the sideline!”  With frustration, I jumped in yelling, giving him ‘the speech.’ Unfortunately for him and us his report card was the same, minimal signs of progress.

To help us better understand this process I asked questions. When do you sit on the sideline and let your child use the skills you have taught them and when do you jump in?  In hearing others share, a common theme was heard; it depends on the child, your parenting style and your ability to step back and give the child the chance to learn from their mistakes. As I continue this high school journey with Myles, I timidly make the decision to sit on the sideline and to jump in ever so often.  In this process, I am reminded of what I was told as a child “If you can’t hear you will feel.” As I do this I see Myles making positive progress.