One Sign Every School Needs to Hang Up

I loved the news report I read last month. Perhaps you saw it too.

A Catholic High School in Little Rock, Arkansas has a rule for parents whose students are enrolled in their school: Please stop rescuing your kid.

It is a high school for boys and, like thousands of other American schools, they have parents who are prone to do all the problem-solving when their teen forgets something or makes a mistake. They made headlines and went viral on Facebook, when a sign located in their school lobby was posted:


When a guest enters the building, they see the school’s goal: “Welcome to Catholic High. We teach reading, writing, arithmetic and problem-solving.”

Then, there is this sign you can read above: “If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., TURN AROUND and exit the building. Your son will learn problem-solving in your absence.”

I love it.

Principal Steve Straessle later said, “We put a sign up on the front door to not only alert new parents to the policy, but to remind people why we do it. Some parents are upset, saying boys who forgot their lunches might be hungry.” But the principal assures everyone that won’t happen because the boys know how to problem solve.

Some students even appreciate the rule. Senior Patrick Wingfield said, “It makes me think for myself and not rely on other people to do things for me.”


Principal Straessle said the rule was actually created to benefit the students. “It’s simply to help boys avoid the default switch of calling Mom and Dad when things don’t go right to bail them out.”

The Logic Behind Good Leadership

1. Stop rescuing them and start resourcing them.

Too many parents stop everything and rescue their child from poor grades, forgotten backpacks or lunches and from lost papers. Sure life is easier when we rescue, but it isn’t the best for them in the long run. When we’re willing to suffer with them over a forgotten lunch one day, they’ll likely remember it in the future. It’s how kids learn.

2. Stop protecting them and start preparing them.

Protecting our kids—even our teens—feels right. It’s a parental instinct. However, if our kids are going to be ready for adulthood, we’ve got to stop enabling wrong behavior. I believe the average U.S. student assumes that if they make a mistake, some adult will swoop in and save them. It’s a nice feeling. However, it’s poor preparation for the day when others won’t be there, and your teen knows nothing about resourcefulness.

3. Stop thinking “short term” and start thinking “long term.”

If all we care about is today, then knock yourself out. Keep those kids comfortable by meeting their every need. At some point, though, we (their leaders) must think long term. Let me say what I’ve said a thousand times: the further out we can see, the better the decision we make today for our young. How does your leadership today condition them for a future where you won’t be around?

4. Stop excusing them and start equipping them.

Too many of us, parents, make excuses for our students. We act like their agent. We do all the negotiating and all the problem-solving for them. Sadly, they never get equipped to do it themselves. If we do it for them, they can’t learn how to do it for themselves. This is a tragedy. If we really care about them, we will train them to not need us. It’s one of the ultimate signals of our love.

5. Stop emphasizing self-absorption and start thinking self-esteem.

Reflect for a moment. If the only item to worry about is our kid’s comfort today, then go ahead and rescue them by bringing that forgotten release form to the school. But in reality, their self-esteem only grows when they learn to do things for themselves. As they learn to self-regulate and manage responsibilities they will begin to feel good about who they are, and they’ll recognize the value they bring to the world around them.

Too many adolescents suffer from “high arrogance and low self-esteem.” Let’s get practical as we lead them into adulthood.

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One Sign Every School Needs to Hang Up