“My son is 15. Why doesn't he want to talk about college?”
(continued)

Dear Annie,

It's rather amazing how right you are about my son's resentment. I spent the last couple of days trying to observe my actions and stop myself from stepping in and solve his problems. I think I had about an 80% success rate -- I had no idea I was treating him like a project and now I realize the more I hounded him, the more he dug in his heels and retaliated the only way he could, by underperforming.

Unfortunately, my husband also has the same tendencies, though to a lesser degree. I shared your note with my husband and we know instinctively that your advice is spot on. When my son complained about our hovering, we'd tell him he'd thank us some day for being such involved parents and not letting him fail :( I guess that's not going to happen!

Some of our anxiety is cultural, I think most of it is due to our fear that he will fail if left to his own devices and we will be consumed with guilt that we didn't take steps to avert it. This has actually come up in a recent conversation with him asking why it matters so much to us if he fails or succeeds.

I see now he's baffled by our lack of faith in him. Our school guidance counselor is unfortunately not a big help (we've been to see her a couple of times) and doesn't consider him to be in need of much guidance (hence my original query to you about college advisors). He does have some wonderful teachers who have helped him choose his courses for the next year. I've been second-guessing their recommendations and offering my own.

Thank you again so much for your timely advice! I'm going to seriously work on stepping back and giving him the freedom to make his own choices. Please wish me luck!

With heartfelt thanks,

A Little Stressed

Dear A Little Stressed,

I admire your growing awareness of your tendency to "step in and solve his problems." Your willingness to observe this pattern and to catch yourself before you jump in, will be of great help.

It's interesting, isn't it? You are ultimately teaching your son to think about the choices he makes beforehand and to manage his own life. In the process you and your husband are learning to manage your impulse to manage your son's life. When we can bring awareness to our own choices, we experience true freedom.

I wish you and your family well.

In friendship,

Annie

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