“No, Mom! I do it!”

That quote was one of my son’s favorite phrases when he was a toddler. He usually wanted me to stop helping him get dressed, climb a ladder, or get a game out. He sometimes wanted me to stop singing along to a song on the radio; in that case, the phrase would change to “No, Mom! She do it!” He never appreciated my dulcet tones, I guess. 😉

I have noticed over the years that I do have a tendency to insert myself too much into my kids’ lives. I don’t have much patience, so it’s difficult for me to watch young fingers struggle to cut out a shape without just grabbing the scissors and saying, “Here. Let me help.” Some parents are great at letting their kids figure it out, watching kids struggle in the kitchen as they place the flour in the measuring cup, spilling half of it on the floor in the process. I aim to be more like those moms all the time. Sometimes, I even succeed.

This idea of Parental Help came home to me after a weekend spent at a Destination Imagination competition. Here’s a lovely photo of my daughter’s improvisation team. I’m their Team Manager.

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Destination Imagination has a strict No Interference policy for teams. Here’s an example of how the No Interference rule woks (from the New Hampshire DI site):

If someone not on the team, including a Team Manager, builds or creates an item using the team’s idea, they may not use that item. The team must start over and build it themselves in their own way. If someone not on the team, such as a Team Manager or a parent, tells the team how to do something, whether they are building something new or just practicing their Presentation, the team must politely tell that person to let them do it themselves.

I’m sure you can imagine how hard it is for adults to zip their lips and let the kids find a solution for themselves. I’ve heard of Team Managers who had to take a walk around the building to avoid telling a team that a particular method of assembling expensive materials was not only not going to work, it was going to destroy said expensive materials. No Interference.

What if we parents exhibited a bit more of the “zip your lip” approach to our kids and their projects? What would the school’s science fair look like if parents really didn’t do 95% of the projects for kids? What would the robotics competition look like if there were no “Daddybots” (the ones built by dads on a team of young beginners who obviously lack the skills necessary to create these work-of-art machines)? What would happen if we – gasp – let our kids make their own costumes for History Day?

I suspect that if we embraced the No Interference rule with our kids, there would be a lot of train wreck projects showing up in schools. Ha. But I think if we became Lip Zippers, we would go a long way towards minimizing that achievement gap everyone’s always so worried about. Our kids don’t need more papers and tougher tests. They need to inhabit the world of “Let’s figure this thing out.”

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