Forgotten homework. Instrument. Water bottle. PE Uniform. Lunch. Cell phone. And the list goes on.

You name it and our kids will forget it. And then they’ll want us to deliver it.

How do we respond, instead of react, to their pleas for help?

I was driving my triplets to high school, when my son sitting shotgun gasped, “oh no, I forgot my paper sitting on the printer!” As he voiced this, my mind began scrambling scenarios of how I could get his needed item to him. Before I could conjure up a working plan in my head, he said, “I’ll have to run in the library and reprint it quick I guess. I’m so glad we can print things off at school.”

Problem solved by the person who had the problem.

My son’s first instinct wasn’t to involve me in solving his dilemma for him. He came up with his own solution and never knew that I was plotting in my head how I might be able to come to the rescue. Thank goodness I kept my mouth shut.

We parents have a habit of swooping in for the rescue instead of allowing our child the space to problem solve on their own.


If every high school would implement this policy, we would all be better off. But, why did this Principal’s simple message posted on Facebook create animosity? Why is my viral post on walking away from doing things for our teens doing the same thing?

Because some parents view teaching kids problem-solving skills as unloving when I believe the opposite is true.

How do you discern when to bail your kid out and when to let natural consequences be their guide?

When our children bought their cell phones, we set a boundary about not using them as an SOS to Mom and Dad to bring forgotten items to school. Not because we don’t love them, but because it’s too easy to allow our kids to fall into the habit of texting us for help instead of problem-solving on their own.

Have you spelled out your family rules for your children that own cell phones?

If your child has a cell phone in hand, it’s a guarantee that they will reach out and hope you can swoop in to save them. They can’t help themselves. It’s simply way too convenient to do.

Text-String-Forgotten-Item copy

The high school baseball coach requires his players to bring their grades to him every Monday. Our son needs to be able to mess up once in awhile, feel the discomfort of talking to his coach and move on.

Here’s how I discern when to bail my kid out and when to let natural consequences be their guide:

Run their request through these 6 quick filters before you respond.

  • Can I deliver the forgotten item?
  • Is this item a want or a true need?
  • What is the state of our relationship? Could showing grace do us some good?
  • Is this a habit or expectation my child has of me?
  • Could this be a good teaching opportunity?
  • Should I still deliver this?

It doesn’t matter if you CAN come to the rescue, the issue is if you SHOULD.

Serving our child best sometimes means letting them feel the pain and recovering from their mistake on their own. Other times it may mean delivering the goods if it’s really needed and you want to show your love in this way.


My son forgot to bring his tech charger one day when he had a debate competition after school. He needs his technology charged to compete, so his forgotten item was really important. I rearranged my afternoon in order to get this to him. Why?

  • Because his charger was truly a need and not a want.
  • He has never forgotten this before.
  • I wanted to do it for him because he’d had a stressful week.
  • Relationships are about give and take.
  • I didn’t feel provoked or expected to do it.

Our children do need opportunities to see that mistakes are a natural part of life and that they can get through the uncomfortable disappointments without having to desperately text Mom or Dad to bail them out. If they are allowed to feel the pain of their own mishaps once in a while, kids will learn coping skills that will serve them well in the real world.

Daughter Dear forgot her order envelope at home on school picture day. Bing. “Mom, I forgot my order form at home.” Her text put me right into rescue mode. What do I do? Can I bring it? Should I? I really want those pictures. I could just run the envelope up to school.

Instead, I texted, “Oh no!”

Does this mean that I’m not going to have a tangible 8th-grade picture of my daughter now?

She texts back that she’ll just do retakes.

Problem solved by the person with the problem.

How do you discern when to bail your kid out and when to let natural consequences be their guide?

8 replies
  1. PTHammonds
    PTHammonds says:

    This was a great reminder and I love how you include times when it’s not only OK to come to your child’s aid, it’s the right thing to do. Parenting isn’t about absolutes. It’s about making good decisions in the moment that hopefully aid your child in the long run.

  2. Katie
    Katie says:

    I literally could not have found this site at a better time! I’m always caught between knowing when to rescue and when to let them feel the consequences. Thank you!

  3. Delphine
    Delphine says:

    I agree, could not have come at a better time. I have 3 needy teenagers and a pre-teen in 3 different schools, and as I work from home, they feel as if it’s my ‘job’ to drop things off, do the car-pools from school even though it’s only a 15 minute walk….
    Your blog does not feel like a criticism toward other Moms but rather a wake up call. Thanks and keep it up !!

    • Amy Carney
      Amy Carney says:

      Thank you for reading Delphine! I’m blessed by your comment and that you are reading my blogs with the exact intent that I’m writing them. Mothering takes a village!!

  4. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    Really good point about letting kids know it is OK to make mistake and lesson to learn to deal with it. Sometimes feel like a bad parent today if we are not trying solve all our kids problems.

  5. Deana
    Deana says:

    I have read a post about not waking your teen in the morning for school. So what if he chooses not to get up. And misses the bus repeatedly, I can’t leave work to get him so now he has a glorious day with no school help?

    • Amy Carney
      Amy Carney says:

      Hi Deana- I know this is a huge problem and can be very stressful for many families! It obviously isn’t a big deal to wake your child here and there, but the question is if this is the daily habit? We all oversleep at times and need help. It can just be a problem if your go-to is waking him every morning unless that works well for your family. Only you know that. Perhaps you try talking about it with your son to figure out solutions or consequences of not being able to get himself up and ready on time without you having to interfere. Only you know if waking him is working best for your family due to your dynamics! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.


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