One overcast day, as the sun peeked periodically from behind the clouds, I stood alongside a mother as she watched her daughters Saturday sport. The mother turned from the game, fisted her hands beneath her chin and through smiling but clenched teeth, stated how she wished she could ‘cheer from the sideline’. To offer suggestions from an observer’s point of view. To use her years of experience to support her daughter. But she wouldn’t. She knew this would upset her daughter – a timid and gentle soul, nervous as she was introduced to this new team.

The mother continued to watch, her enthusiasm and excitement noticeable in the tensing of her body. As she stated  the sentiment again, she shouldn’t offer her advice, was she reminding me or herself?

I understood this mother – I have been this mother and I have seen her in others. Not just at sporting events, but in many areas of a child’s life. As they learn to make friends, tie a shoe-lace, put on a jumper, build a tower, learn to drive, take a test or tidy their room. The list is endless as we stand alongside our children, offering opportunities to learn and grow, while feeling the desire to help.

“It’s so hard watching from the sideline and not being able to help”. This sentiment is not only applicable in a literal sense, but describes the role of parenting.

What is the balance between supporting your child and letting them learn on their own? Regardless of their age – from the youngest of infants, to the grown adult – a parent must learn to negotiate the dance of scaffolding and stepping back.