“Thank you, Mrs. Ferguson,” I said to myself  walking out of the building. After finishing 10 parent-teacher conferences for two middle schoolers, my long but very good day was finally over. Don’t get me wrong, not all of the feedback was positive. Yes, there was room for improvement, different things for different kids. But there was one common praise across all of those conferences and both of those kids: your child is very self-sufficient.

Any child psychologist will tell you the importance of teaching children independence if you want them to grow into successful adults. Parents hear it constantly. But what they are missing are the details. How in the world does a parent know how much responsibility to give and when to give it? It feels like a constant game of trial and error. And as soon as you think you got it right, your kids have moved on.

The good news is that figuring out the details can be simpler than most parents realize. The harder news is that they depend on the parent, and it’s up to you to know it when you hear it. Pearls of wisdom can come from a friend, a relative, or as in my case, a wonderful second grade teacher. More good news. It’s never too late to guide your children, no matter how old they are.

“Nancy,” Mrs. Ferguson said, “she’s in 2nd grade. Why are you carrying her backpack?”

Abby & Mrs. F May 2011

Abby & Mrs. F May 2011


Those were the magic words I needed. And when Mrs. Ferguson shook her head when I said something about lots of library books and the smallest kid in the grade, I stopped and handed my 8 year old her backpack. And she took it. And for whatever reason, I finally understood that sometimes helping my children was hurting them. And that backpack has become my metaphor for each new milestone we approach: if she can carry it, let her.

Now, whenever I see a parent of a middle schooler, or even a 3rd grader, carrying a backpack while the kid walks along entirely unencumbered, I quietly shake my head. I don’t say anything, because the truth is that we all have our moment.

Maybe my backpack provides you a seminal moment. Or perhaps you’ll have one at your upcoming parent-teacher conferences. Or maybe you’ll find it among the recommendations from our child psychologists on MindprintLearning.com.  If you’re a parent, that life changing advice is out there waiting for you to follow. And if you’re a parent who has had a seminal moment, please share it below. You have the potential to make a big difference to another family.

This blog was written by Nancy Weinstein, the CEO of Mindprint Learning and the mother of two middle school girls. It is dedicated to our family’s favorite 2nd grade teacher. Read more about teaching your child independence read in our favorite articles.

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