Elisabeth Rohm's Blog: Why I'm 'Tough' on My Daughter and Expect Her to Do School Work Alone
Elisabeth Röhm is a busy mama!
Best known for her roles as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order and in films like American Hustle and Joy, the actress is currently starring as Aria Price on her Sony Crackle show The Oath.
Röhm, 46, is also a proud mom to daughter Easton August, 11, whom she shares with ex Ron Anthony. In January, she confirmed to PEOPLE that she had gotten engaged to Jonathan Colby, a retired judge.
The actress and mother of one can be found on Facebook, as well as Twitter and Instagram @elisabethrohm.
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As the school year comes to a close and I look back on what we did right and what could’ve been handled better, one word comes to mind. It’s a very current word, a hot topic and one that came up in our own household.
Nothing is more fun or fulfilling than to help our children succeed. I get it. I loved helping Easton with her projects when she was in elementary school, but as this year unfolded and fifth grade became more challenging in preparation for sixth grade, it was my greatest hope to give her the skills to do it all on her own. God forbid, one day if I’m not around. Morbid thought, I guess, but what I meant more was what will happen when she leaves home and goes to college?
I’ve often thought about this when I’ve talked to Easton’s friends and they don’t know their own addresses or their parents’ phone numbers. They just seem so ill-equipped in the bigger picture. I mean, don’t get me wrong — Easton is my one and only miracle baby and I am the ultimate hands-on helicopter parent, but where have the days gone of empowering our kids to become fully functioning adults one day? I know we all say that’s what we’re doing every day as we parent lovingly from the sidelines of their lives, coaching their big and small moments. But seriously, is that our ultimate agenda? Or are we more focused on ourselves as we help them win?
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Easton complains sometimes that I won’t get involved in playground politics. Instead, I talk to her about her behavior, how to conduct herself and what she feels in her heart. Of course we discuss strategy, but seldom do I call the school or other parents and get involved. In other words, I do not take away her power and any real chance she has of problem-solving in the future. As her mom and her biggest advocate, I want her to feel empowered and know that she has the skills to navigate her relationships with both children and adults when I’m not present. I give her the tools, but then I get out of her way.
And please don’t get me started on the dopamine of electronics and how they impede all self-motivation, energy and creativity. No, I’m not pointing any fingers, as I too struggle daily with the tense conversations I share with Easton about how much happier and more motivated she is when she’s not checked out and numbed out on her devices — how alive, electric, kind and communicative she is when the aggression of staring at an iPad, iPhone or laptop hasn’t hijacked my kid and her bright future.
I had a very do-it-yourself childhood. I spent my life riding horses in the woods of upstate New York or riding my dirt bike and returning at night for dinner. I am of that generation where we had to make our own experiences, climb trees, fall, wipe ourselves off and climb back up again until it became skillful and effortless.
I wasn’t allowed to watch too much television and seeing as I was an only child, I had to develop my own imagination versus distracting myself with my siblings or, these days, disappearing into Minecraft. Not to mention I had a very busy father and my mother was not that helpful with my homework, so I was left to my own devices to sink or swim both academically and in many other areas of my life. Do you relate?
But you know what, you guys? As this year unfolded and I pondered what felt like years of solitude in my childhood, I found I was reflecting with gratitude on my capabilities to manifest success, organize, complete, dream up and follow through. In other words, I am proactive, and it became a theme in our household this year that I wanted to teach to Easton more than anything. I didn’t want her to be depressed from hours of checking out and then further impede her with an overly involved mother who helped her get out of the sticky spots of getting her work done even if it was something simple.
Trust me, Easton is a very good student and a very self-motivated person, but all our kids would rather play The Sims or what have you than finish homework on weekends or in the evening,
I was forced by my childhood circumstances to stand on my own two feet, which have carried me far. And the one thing I’ve always known — even in my darkest, most insecure hour — is that I will always succeed and achieve because I ultimately believe in my abilities to begin with a thought, build it and follow through on its completion. I know through and through that I can perform. And wouldn’t it be amazing if we could ensure, year after year, that our children were completely confident and doing well in so many things, but also their ability to handle their tasks, their responsibilities — their life?!
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Thoughts of wanting my child to be able to hold her own as a student and then in the bigger picture of life came to mind again and again this year. As Easton had projects, one huge one in particular arrive on her docket. Rather than tell her how to get it done, I simply said, “I will not help you get it done.” Instead, I guided her time management, which felt like a bigger gift than assisting with her actual work. I provided everything she needed to succeed, and did not step in and take her power and confidence away from her by doing her work with her to expedite things and give her an edge — or make my life easier and frankly more fun, because I love hanging with her and sharing in her experiences. I felt that it was not the right thing to do anymore, in the big picture of her life.
Obviously, there has been scandal on the subject lately in the news. One of the things that kept coming up in conversation among my closest friends was, “Would you have done what Felicity [Huffman] or Lori [Loughlin] did to help give your child an added advantage?” Some admitted they would have. My answer is no. I can’t imagine anything more harmful than setting your kid up to lose in the world with two major disadvantages:
Can we imagine a heart-wrenching scene where we’ve helped our children do their homework, projects or what have you all their lives and the time comes where you are no longer there or they are simply in school, unable to perform because they didn’t do the work to begin with? They didn’t manage their time or complete tasks and homework on their own. Basically, they have no clue how to perform. They’re frozen and paralyzed, and in way over their heads.
More from Elisabeth’s PEOPLE.com blog series:
- Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: My Fiancé and I Live in Separate Cities — for the Sake of My Daughter
- Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: The Real Reason I Took My Daughter on a Road Trip Through Iceland
- Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: Navigating the Crazy World of Co-Parenting After a Split
- Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: I’m Back — and Ready to Talk Parenting Post-Split
Let me just say that my proactive plan to help Easton help herself worked out really well for many of the weeks leading up to the night before this huge project was due, but full disclosure: The night before was hell, as she had forgotten one large component of the project and we were in a full panic. You bet she asked me to help, and when she got too tired to do any more and had to sleep so she was rested for school the next day, she blatantly asked me to finish it while she slept.
Mind you, it wasn’t that complicated and I could’ve done it so that my life was easier and she was calm. But instead, mayhem ensued because I said plainly, “That’s cheating and I’m not going to do your homework for you. We had four weeks to get this done, and every day you had a task so we could celebrate the night before it was due by having it completed. No scrambling, I’d said. So sorry, do it yourself or fail to turn it in, but I’m not bailing you out. That’s cheating. I’m not doing you any favors by doing that, although it might feel that way right now.”
Boy, was she upset. Easton had to get up hours earlier than planned to finish her work. But you better believe when her grade came back and she’d gotten 100 percent, that grade and achievement was hers and hers alone. Wow! What a day! There was no creeping or sinking feeling receding in the corners of her mind that she didn’t earn that grade. She could stand tall and proud knowing that every bit of that 100 percent was hers, not mine.
I have to be honest: Since then, I have seen such growth, and that added confidence has permeated throughout other aspects of her performance for the year. She began to take it upon herself to retake tests that she knew she could do better on, and she planned better in advance for her work.
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Like I said, it was not easy to be tough, but looking ahead to sixth grade, I’m certain that Easton’s success will be her own and that if she’s struggling, she’ll take great pride in figuring her way through her conflicts and difficulties on her own — and more than ever am I sure that doing it for her is a big mistake. When I hear about kids going to college these days, I hear more stories such as these than there should be. The old-fashioned, do-it-yourself way is without a doubt, in my opinion, the best way to ensure happy, healthy and confident kids.
Since then, I spent some time talking to a dear friend who has older kids, and she absolutely confirmed that she failed her daughter by bailing her out and taking over all of her projects at school to get her that ever-sought-after A+. Her daughter is lost, depressed and truly feels like she’s not as smart or capable as others in the family. Her mom failed her by making it too easy, and that is a heavy weight to carry for both of them. Ultimately, it’s up to us as parents to lead the way, and then set them free.
The summer is upon us and now we can relax, rest and enjoy the fruits of our labors … ah, how nice to feel and be free for a bit. Wishing you all a wonderful beginning of summer! Until next time …
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