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Nothing Unsaid #03: Please Stop Carrying Your Child's Backpack

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

I’ve wanted to write this article for quite a while. This feels like the right time and place.

Perhaps I will challenge your current thinking.

(Warning ** - This post may result in some good ol’ fashion debate or differing opinions.)

If you’re a parent, do you carry your child’s backpack? If you do, I am asking you to stop doing this.

Many families who I speak to about this idea have never fully considered its unintended implications. Or, many simply have just never thought about it. Have you? If you haven't, now is the time!

In my view, kids misinterpret this simple act of kindness (or help). This is a classic case of the adult and the child not being on the same page. The parent’s intention is to help out. The child’s interpretation is fluffing off responsibility. See what I mean? These two ideas couldn’t be more disconnected.

You might be thinking to yourself : “Hey Jen - this is really nit picking at the small stuff.” I couldn’t disagree more. For me, the simple act of having a kid be responsible for his own bag is the perfect place to start teaching him or her about caring for their own stuff. It leads to way bigger things down the road. When kids are held accountable to care for their own belongings and do so from a young age, they tend to treat their things with greater care and are less likely to “leave something behind”. If you saw the number of brand name jackets, hoodies, sneakers, fancy water bottles, snowpants etc… that occupy any public school’s lost and found, I’m sure you would think twice about whether to carry or not to carry. I’m talking about some items that are each worth hundreds of dollars! There is no appreciation or sense of value when kids operate this way. And, we’re not helping them to grow.

This unintentional act of misplaced support can cause lots of other problems down the line. It can lead to kids who want everything done for them. The small stuff leads to the big stuff. They can become complacent, highly unaware of surroundings, dismissive and sometimes oppositional. It can lead to kids not wanting to help load the dishwasher, hang up their jacket or feed the dog - all small chores that are a right of passage for a young person. They will never know or understand what it means to carry their weight or be a contributor. Why would they? We’ve excused them from the most basic task.

I’ve recently seen this “infraction” happen at my local hockey arena with young teen kids. It saddens me to see “an elite athlete” whose parents are carrying their hockey equipment. I would bet that these kids have never carried ( or cared for ) their own belongings. I don’t think this is the direction that we should be headed.

So, the next time you reach for your child’s bag - by automatic default - I invite you to think twice. In my view, this small thing is worth the battle.

Oh, and I almost forgot... if you do insist that your child carries his or her own bag... thanks very much! Well done!

That's all I have for now.

Thanks for sticking with me.


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