Learning to Let Go

Are you doing too much for your child/partner/family?

Are you fed up of picking up after everyone, finishing unfinished chores or redoing badly done things?

Maybe it’s time to ask yourself whether you’re doing too much and take a look at your “Letting Go” Life Skills.

Your kids’ rooms look like bombs have exploded – and stink bombs at that; dirty clothes and wet towels are left all over; the bin’s overflowing and your partner’s “forgotten” it’s their turn to put it out; Jane’s forgotten her lunch again; and Johnny’s asking you to tie his shoe laces for him (despite the fact he’s 9 years old). Rather than ask, plead or shout and – once again – be accused of being an old nag, you do it yourself because it makes life easier, right?


What do I mean wrong? Don’t I want their rooms to be clean? Don’t I want the wet towels hung up to dry in the bathroom? Am I going to leave poor little Jane to starve and Johnny with his shoe laces undone?

Of course, but that’s not the point. We all have to learn to “let go” and stop over-functioning – particularly when it comes to our kids.

Most of the time, it’s done completely unintentionally. Your Inner Imp “Love” is skipping around convincing everyone on “Team You” that he’s simply showing that you care.

Of course little Jane won’t starve if you don’t jump in the car and take her lunch to her, but you do it anyway because you love her – just like you’ve loved her the 2 or 3 times she’s forgotten every week for the last two months.

Little Johnny’s complaining yet again about his homework so you “help” him again by supply 70% of the answers – the poor love’s got SO much to do after all.

Love has us doing all these things in the mistaken belief that we’re “loving” those around us. What we’re actually doing is getting stuck in the rut of doing too much and not allowing those around us to take hold of their own responsibilities.

Of course it’s nice to be “needed” and have people relying on you. It’s equally nice to have people comment and dole out compliments about how much you do, what a rock you are and how the family couldn’t survive without you. The reality however, is all too often something completely different.

The reality is, you’re not “needed” in these situations. You’re either being “used” or neglecting one of your roles as a parent to your child which is to teach them to function INDEPENDENTLY.

While you’re “over-doing it”, your kids, wife, husband, mother, colleague or whoever, is learning, or getting into the habit of, “under-doing it”.

Why learn to do it yourself or do it yourself if someone will do it for you?

While this isn’t a problem in the short term, if it goes on for any length of time, you’re storing up a whole heap of trouble for the future.

At some point you need to wake up and ask yourself a question.

“Am I helping this person or teaching this person to be helpless?”

Sure it hurts like billy-o emotionally when your child cries bucket-loads because she had no lunch or had to do her homework without you supplying most of the answers. But summon up your Inner Imp Courage and let go. Rest assured, he or she will eventually learn to think for themselves and gain the competence and confidence to get by on their own abilities.

If you continue to rescue or protect the people in your life from things they are perfectly capable of doing themselves, you’re denying them the ability to learn and/or perfect some of the essential life skills they need to function as successful, CANDo types of adults.

Next time you’re asked to do something that you know the “asker” can do or should do themselves, keep a metaphorical racket to hand. If it’s advice they’re after, bat the responsibility back at them with an “I don’t know, I’d have to think about it.” or “What do you think might be a good solution?” If it’s homework, gently ask them to remember where they were up to, what the teacher said they should do or where they think they might find the answer.

Don’t let their resistance beat you. They will resist at first and try and pack you off on a little guilt trip for not doing it for them or telling them what to do.

“But you’re so much better at it than me.” “I don’t know, what do you think?” “You’re mean, you never help me.” “I can’t do it.”

It’s gonna hurt and you’re very likely to see the ones you love squirming for a while but stick to your guns. In the long run it’ll turn out best for everyone.

Letting go isn’t an easy life skill to learn, especially if you’ve been “over-doing it” for a while. Here’s a CANDo how-to that should help.

Start by Stopping

There. That’s it. That’s the sum total of how-to advice you’re gonna get – I don’t want to be “over-doing it” after all, I mean you need to figure some things out for yourself. 🙂

Just start by stopping doing one thing that you know they are capable of doing and should be doing themselves.

Don’t stop loving, but change your role to that of guide not rescuer; listener not solution provider, assistant not the boss; helper without doing.

Have Self-Discipline and Courage keep you on the straight and narrow because when resistance hits, it’s surprisingly easy to slip back into doing it for them. If you feel your resolve weakening, remind yourself that you’re not going to routinely do things for others that they CANDo and should do themselves.

If you find yourself about to jump in and do something for someone, take a moment. Ask yourself, “Is this my responsibility or theirs?” “If I do this, am I helping them fulfil their role as an independent CANDoer?”

If you know they’re capable of doing it then tell them so.

“I know you can do this.” “You’re great at doing this sort of thing.”

Then back off and let them fly – or experience the natural consequences if they decide to stay on the ground.

Letting go is really hard, but often, it’s the only way forward and the only way to get things done.

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