The reason parents get wedged into their own name-calling corners is that we don't let ourselves share the frustration, a little at a time, that naturally and predictably builds when we feel ignored or tested. Instead, we wait, and wait, and wait patiently as our children do everything but what we want, and then like any good combustion engine, we blow.
Of course you're going to help your child with homework, we all are, but if you really want your help to help and not hinder, you're going to help them with what they actually can't do themselves. And even then, you're going to share the job with them, meet in the middle and do the proverbial "teaching them how to fish" so that they won't go hungry next time and beyond.
Every time we see tears in our children's eyes our inner control panel goes through the same process —we want to body dive sadness and get it off our kids — fast. I would say that this lesson to not fear our children's sadness is the one that we have to relearn just about every time we see tears. I don't want my kids to be sad.
One of the best ways to teach your child about flexibility is by demonstrating your own. This is what the fine art of diplomacy really sounds like. Because in the end, if you sound like a brat while correcting your child from sounding like a brat, well, Houston, we've got problems.
The radical (to your child) idea is that you can do some work in the summer—whether that be pitching in around the house, or reviewing math facts— and still have a great summer. Don’t want to be the bearer of bad news? You’re not. You didn’t invent this. It’s called life. And it’s actually good for them—and you.
Our job is to not wait for graduation to talk about failure and success. It’s a little late then. Rather, we need to be rolling out the red carpet for our kids throughout their education. Making saying “I don’t know” or making mistakes safe. Making “I don’t know for sure” a noble and defendable position.