Parenting Tip: Raising Confident, Responsible Kids

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 15, 2024

Sam, age ten, said to his mother, “I wanna get that new Lego set I showed you.”

And this—along with endless other situations—is where parents almost always forget what their role is. We parents are not kitchens designed to feed children.

We’re not banks for dispensing money. It is not our job to make life only easy and fun.

No, we’re here to love and teach our children.

Sam’s mom understood that, so she didn’t just say “Sure, we’ll get you one,” nor did she say, “No, you can’t have one.”

Either of those answers would be too simple and would teach Sam nothing.

Teaching Responsibility and Confidence

Mom looked Sam directly in the eye and said, “You’re pretty smart. Give it some thought and come up with a plan to earn the money for the set you want.” Then she turned away, clearly signaling that the conversation was over. Sam knew that there would be no begging or arguing.

An hour later, holding a leaf rake, Sam returned to Mom and said, “Leaves are falling all over the neighborhood, so I’ll ask people if they want me to rake their lawns.”

“What a great idea,” Mom said. Knowing that Sam had never done such a thing before, she thought she might help him to be prepared. “What will you charge them?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “What do you think?”

Mom wanted to help but not to cheat Sam of learning something important. “People pay a lot to have their yardwork done, but you’re also ten years old, and they won’t be willing to pay you as much as an adult.”

“Why not?”

“They believe you won’t do as good a job. They don’t know you like I do. And they assume that you’d be satisfied to work for less.”

“So what should I charge?”

“There are many things to consider. You could Google what the average cost is for raking a yard. You could figure out how long it takes to rake OUR yard and multiply that by something close to the minimum wage. You’ll figure it out.”

Mom texted me less than an hour later and said, “He just walked back through the door. He said he's scared. What could I say to him so he’s not afraid?”

“And right here,” I said, “is where you teach him confidence. Don’t baby him. Don’t rescue him. Teach him about choice. 

"Tell him, ‘Of course you’re afraid. This is a new thing, not like anything you’ve ever done. You have a choice to make: First, you can stay afraid, stay home, learn nothing, and make nothing. OR second, you could be scared but go out anyway.

"That’s real courage, moving when you’re afraid. Then you can learn how to approach people, make some money, get some confidence.’”

Mom did exactly that, and Sam learned that there was more to raking leaves than he thought: bagging vs piling leaves at the street, every job took longer than he thought, yards were different in size, charging money wasn’t the same as collecting, and more.

But he figured it out and developed a sense for manual labor and business. Most important, he struck out in a new direction and gained some confidence.

Want to learn more?

Eliminate confusion and conflict with your children.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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