My daughter left her homework sitting on the counter this morning. Which is not where I told her to put it—in her folder. When she realized she left it at home, she said “I thought you were going to put it away for me. Can you drop it off later?” I hesitated because I always want my girl to have what she needs, but then I realized this was the perfect opportunity to let her fail, to make a mistake, and in turn, learn how to be more responsible. It’s hard for parents to do this. My husband even said after I told him, “Can’t you just take it to her this one time?” I wanted to, but this one time will turn into one more time, and then it’ll be every time.

It’s an easy pattern to adapt. After all, your kids are your babies; your gut instinct is to shield them from the big bad world. It’s that mentality, though, that has gotten us to where we are in time, as lawnmower, snowplow or curling parents, or whatever term we’re using for when we clear the path for our kids, so they have no troubles to face, and no challenges to overcome. Unfortunately, studies have shown these tactics don’t necessarily raise capable, responsible humans.

Yes, she was mad at me, and yes, I felt bad for her, and even though I know we will always be close and have a strong bond, I also know I am not her friend. I am her mother. I am her general, preparing her for the battle we call life. If I fix it for her now, what will I be fixing in five years? In 10? In 20? These small failures, at this young age, are the most important ones she can have because when it comes time for the big stuff, she’ll know what she needs to do to succeed. It’s called having life skills, and who else is going to teach my kids? From homework to waking up on her own, I have a feeling this year, her tenth year of life, in the fourth grade, is going to be the year where I begin her training.

Will she understand what I’m trying to do? Probably not at this stage in the game. I’m going to be up against a lot of “You’re so mean!” and “I don’t understand why you won’t let me!” and “I need you to do it for me.” I love my daughter, and when she’s frustrated with me, it’s not fun. Parenting isn’t always supposed to be fun, though. Parenting is also about remembering what my ultimate job is, and knowing that when she gets older and is a capable, mature, and hopefully, successful young adult, she’ll look back and appreciate the lessons I taught her, even the small ones like dealing with her first homework packet in the fourth grade.