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I Hate It When I'm Right

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"Mother knows best" is not just a colloquialism, it's a fact ... stated colloquially. But just like our ability to read minds or see into the future, it's both a blessing and a curse.

stressed looking woman

Beth Falkenstein: When our children are toddlers, this gift of omniscience comes in very handy. We make all their decisions, and things run according to plan. If it weren't for us, these children would certainly never develop past the crawling stage. Unfortunately, they do. And once they learn to walk, they suddenly start to resent our help -- all cocky with independence because they figured out how to put one foot in front of the other.

Which brings me to the argument I had with my 14-year-old the other day. She swore she was able to listen to her iPod, text her friends, monitor her AIM account, and still study for a test. As her mother, of course, I knew that this was a recipe for failure. The screams of "Yes I can!" and "No you can't!" were deafening (and monotonous).

The problem was that this was a far-too-familiar routine in our house -- a routine which usually ends when I take away her phone and she petulantly "learns" the lesson I was trying to teach her. I needed to try a different tack.

I flashed on the theory promoted by countless child development geniuses that the best way for a kid to learn is to let kids make mistakes, e.g., the best way for a child to learn that a stove is hot is to let him burn his hand. (Now there's a child endangerment lawsuit waiting to happen.) I had hoped that this hands-off approach only applied to other mothers, but amazingly, found myself willing to give it a try this time. I backed down, backed away, and let the social networking continue.

She got a "D" on her test the next day. (Didn't you read the title of this piece?) I stifled the urge to smirk and say "I told you so." Instead, I only smirked. Then I took away her phone. She responded by shrugging and doing that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other trick out of the room.

So now she has no phone and a "D," and I'm not sure which one of us learned a lesson.

next: John Edwards' Mistress's Gutsy Choice
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