My Kids Are Better Off When I'm Not Rescuing Them

Almost every morning when I load my two boys into the car and pull out of the driveway in order to head to school, I ask the same questions: “Do you guys have your lunch? Your homework folder? Your coat?” Sometimes there’s a specific paper I need to get to their teacher, and I’ll remind them about that. Or I’ll nag my 9-year-old to remember not to get on the bus on Wednesday afternoon, because it’s computer club day.

I figure these reminders are part of my job, since they’re only in first and third grade and they’re still pretty forgetful. But as they get older, that responsibility will shift more and more to their shoulders, and I’m not going to bail them out when they forget their homework/lunch/instrument/whatever.

This, apparently, is a MOVEMENT. A thing. An official whatchamacallit. It’s called “no rescue” parenting, and it’s right up my alley.


Today author Jordana Horn posits her “no rescue” parenting as the opposite approach to helicopter parenting — you know, the smothery, I’ll-always-be-there-ALWAYSSSS style. She writes,

I quit the micro-job of being The Fixer: the one who solved all problems. From now on, I told them, if they left something at school in the afternoon, I wasn’t going to bring them back to school to get it. And if they left something at home in the morning, I wasn’t going to bring it to them.

Her kids are a bit older than mine — fifth and fourth grade. That sounds like a perfectly reasonable age to start expecting that kids will be able to manage their to-dos without constant parental interference.

To give my kids credit, they’re actually very responsible about packing up their lunches and making sure their homework is ready to be turned in. They occasionally forget that there’s a thing called weather outside, though, and that’s where I usually have to horn in and insist they stuff a jacket in their backpacks. That seems normal for their ages, but as they grow up, I’ll absolutely let them deal with the consequences of being chilly if they didn’t bother to grab a raincoat on the way out the door. I mean, as a mom, I never want them to be cold, but also ... remember that saying from when we were kids? Tough titties, said the kitty.

If they sometimes forget something, that’s no big deal — but I don’t want them to learn to rely on me to constantly cover their butts. Amy McCready, author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time, says,

For kids who are developmentally ready, the long term benefits of implementing a No Rescue Policy are responsibility and accountability. A popular expression in parenting education circles is: ‘A child who always forgets has a parent who always remembers.’ If we rescue kids from their repeated forgetfulness, we rob them of the opportunity to take personal responsibility and learn from their missteps. Who will be there to rescue them in college or at their first job?

Yup. The only thing that seems faintly silly about No Rescue Parenting is that anyone bothered to give it a name. To me it just seems like common sense: don’t raise your kids to rely on you for every little thing. Duh. But catchy parenting terms sell books, I guess, so if this is a movement, consider me on board. It’s all about learning to take care of your own shit, kids ... metaphorically and otherwise.

How do you feel about “no rescue parenting”? Do you think it even deserves to be called out as a choice, or does it sound like basic life lessons?

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