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There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way.-Christopher Morley
The Second-Grade Supremes
By David
Posted September 24, 2009

Since the time they're born, we do our best to protect our children. It's what we do as parents. We make sure they have everything they need to thrive. When they are infants, we baby-proof the house to cover any sharp objects they may encounter, we place protective barriers at the top of the staircase so they will not tumble down and, even as they grow older, many of us continue to protect our children.

But sometimes children need to be allowed to learn how to solve their own problems and fight their own battles, even when those are not easy. One of the most important lessons of life is how to solve problems independently.

Yet, it's so tempting to want to help our children avoid even the slightest bruising. At least for me it is.

This week, my daughter, who is in second grade, faced social pressure from a classmate. It seems that this year there is a new girl in her class who wants to be the “supreme leader” of the second-grade girls. The only problem is that a few others aspire to fill the same position, including my daughter. Well, actually, my daughter aspires to be a singing and dancing star more so than a supreme leader. Other girls just want to be in charge of issuing ongoing instructions to everyone.

If one can unravel this complex web of relationships, it becomes clear that my daughter's second-grade class has become a mirror of grownup life. A little early for my liking, but – ready or not -- the age of social pressure and competition has arrived with a flurry of tears.

Fighting Their Own Battles
Fighting Their Own Battles

It breaks my heart to see my daughter in distress, and my first inclination is to call the teacher and the principal, right after I call the offending girl's parents, and demand that the young wannabe commander be punished. But, of course, there are just a few problems with that approach, not the least of which is that it is a terrible idea. Potentially satisfying, yes. But still an awful idea.

So, I decided to sit it out for the time being. I knew that my wife and I need to be available to console our daughter and offer her support and understanding. We gave her advice on how to proceed, but allowed her to fight this particular battle by herself. I'm confident that we’ve given her the tools to survive this crisis.

And, as it turns out, within a day or two, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The new girl has managed to anger several other girls in the class, and is now at odds with them. My daughter is no longer alone in her battle, as a few girls appear to be banding together to stand up to the new girl. I predict that we’re hopefully just a day or two away from a resolution that will allow all the second-grade girls to go about their business happily again.

Although it’s been difficult not to intervene to solve my daughter’s problem, I’m sure that it’s the right move. If things turn out the way I predict, my daughter will have gained the confidence that she can solve her own problems independently.

I won’t bore you by listing all the benefits of allowing children to meet their own challenges. But I will say that there are certain challenges in which parents must be involved, and other challenges that children should be allowed to tackle independently. The trick is to identify which are which.

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Double Triangle is my personal blog and is mostly about family life in the Los Angeles area. It also serves to record some of my thoughts in a format that can be easily accessed by my family and friends, as well as by anyone else who cares to read it.

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