Am I Babying My Son?

I used to ask myself this question all the time. “Am I babying my son?”


“You baby him. He’s almost eleven years old and you are still helping him get his socks on straight.”

“You can’t keep treating him like a baby. He is old enough to sleep through the night. You need some tough love here.”

“You are still helping him tie his shoes? Are you kidding me? How old is he? Time to cut the apron strings.”

Time and time again, I have heard accusations like this. Some from my husband. Some from family and friends.

And now, mostly from the internet. (Blogging has a way of increasing the number of people who feel equipped to speak into a life they know nothing about.)

am i babying my son?

I used to worry – constantly. It seemed like motherhood was all about choosing between my instincts and what everyone else told me a good mother should do.








My children have not progressed in these areas in the same manner as other children.

When they were younger, I had no idea how unique their neurology really is. I had no idea how much more difficult it would become for them and the diagnoses that would soon follow.

No one did.

I allowed my son to eat ice cream in the morning because it seemed to be the only thing he could tolerate. I let him wear crocs, even when the preschool said he needed to wear socks every day. I didn’t force him to do the homework every night after too many broken pencils and meltdowns showed that he was completely overwhelmed after an entire day of school.

I tied my son’s shoes for him – even at eleven years old.

Am I Babying My Son?

As my boys grew older, we learned more and more about how difficult aspects of everyday life were for them.

My oldest and eating. My youngest and fine motor skills.

The maddening sensory experience of socks for them both.

It all started to add up. Their responses made sense. For the first time, I didn’t really care or worry about what other people said.

I could see the difference in my boys when I provided assistance in an area until they were ready to face it on their own.

What Will Happen If…?

I think we worry far too often that if we don’t require and demand certain things of our children, they will never learn to do them on their own.

We worry we are spoiling them. We worry they will become egocentric and soft.

But experience has been exactly the opposite.

Here is one small example –

I have felt shame and judgment for tying my son’s shoes for years now.

The truth is, he probably could’ve tied them on his own if I had forced the issue. His fine motor skills have progressed and although it may have been difficult, I think he could’ve figured it out.

The problem isn’t the actual laces. It’s the amount of anxiety he experiences every single time he puts on a pair of socks and then shoes.

The sensory experience is overwhelming, but because he loves gymnastics and outdoor play, sometimes, crocs or flip flops just won’t work.

After braving the “nuggets” he feels in his socks and having the seams in just the right place, and the shoes not feeling right on his heels, when it comes time to tie his shoes, a fine motor activity that he has struggled with for five years?

If I force it, meltdowns, chaos, thrown Nikes and missed gymnastics lessons soon follow.

So I tie them for him.



Last Saturday, as I watched him practicing a flip in gymnastics, his shoe came untied.

I held my breath, thinking that he would walk over to me and all the parents would see me tying the oldest child in the class’s shoe for him.

He didn’t.

He leaned over and nonchalantly tied it himself.

I beamed with pride.

I almost cheered.

He tied his shoes. All on his own.

Sometimes, our children just need more time and more understanding.

Meeting my son where he is, helping him learn, practicing skills over and over again but without demands or pressure, accommodating his needs –

It is preparing him to live well, despite a ton of odds stacked against him.

It is building his confidence and mine.

Am I babying my son?


But I no longer care.

It’s working.

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  1. Love it. Your blog helps me give grace to my own kids. Cheering you all from here!

    1. Thank you so much, Kristi! It is always so affirming to read your words.

  2. Same thing with my son and tying shoes…the whole thing. Well, I’m happy to say that now at age 15 ½, he ties his own shoes. There are still some days I will if I know the morning needs it. I felt all the same things you did. When you said your son tied his shoes at gymnastics, I felt a little like crying–I know how you must have felt…at first, the stress in the pit of your stomach, not sure how it was all going to go down when you saw his untied shoe…then the ‘omg, he’s tying his shoes!’ And feeling so proud, happy & relieved for him/you. And knowing that no one else around you could understand how awesome it all was. They just would not and could not get it. So hurrah for you both!!

    1. You totally get it. That is 100% exactly how it felt. 🙂

  3. Brett Spore says:

    Yes! I love this post. Thank you. So many people question what we are doing and why we are doing it and often I’m even questioning it. But then you see it work and your son ties his own shoes in class and you know you’ve done well and he’s done well and we sing the small praises to ourselves and our kiddo. God bless and pardon my serious run on sentences. I was excited. 🙂

    1. The run on sentences is what made my laugh and tear up a little reading your words. Perfectly written in my opinion.
      Thank you for sharing in my excitement!

  4. I really needed this today. My husband and I are often called helicopter parents, but after so many times my son has needed us to “baby” him for his own safety and well-being, I have learned to ignore this title. People don’t really understand the hidden aspects of various disabilities. Yet it is hard to not feel bad. Thank you for encouraging what I know is right for my son.

    1. It is hard not to feel bad. I think I write these things down as much for myself as for anyone who might read them!

  5. Malinda Templet says:

    Shawna, this seems selfish of me, but it brings me a measure of comfort that someone else “gets it”. I too have struggled with the questions of when enough is enough…When do I stop doing it for him? God bless you.

    1. Not selfish at all! It’s one of the reasons I write posts like this. I am always encouraged by how many of us “get it.” 🙂

  6. I totally agree with your philosophy!

  7. How could great parents not do a few things to make life more enjoyable for these children, whose life is full of so much pain? I think if others knew how uncomfortable life truly is for them they would have far less judgments. I used to make my son do a full school day, after I spent time with him there and realized how painful all the noise is we shortened his day. I eat lunch with him every day instead of making him go to the lunch room. I don’t care what anyone thinks. 😉 Thanks for writing this! We all need the affirmation from time to time. Blessing to you and your family!

  8. Katharine harvard says:

    So glad to read this. My son is 13 and I still tie his shoes. Am hoping in time he will do himself so try not to push the subject. Am sure I do baby him but for him it works and is happy.. is hard not to care what people think but I try to ignore the stares and comments. It’s not there business and I don’t need to explain. He will do it when he is ready.

  9. Thank you for this.

    My daughters (ages 2 and 4) have SPD. It’s a struggle to know when to push an issue and when to just let it go. Sometimes they do need to “just obey”, especially when safety is a factor. But then I have to be respectful, and not unreasonable, with what I tell them to do. ( I’m still working on that and in the meantime I’ve had to choose not to enforce many of my directives, because they were actually unreasonable, given the SPD.)

    I want to help my girls feel confident that I always have their best interests at heart, and know that I empathize with their limitations. After reading your blog, and other blogs, I am determined that I will take my girls’ side and be their advocate, and not give an inch to pressure from bystanders whether that pressure is overt or just in my head, LOL!

    Thank you for your blog; it blesses me!

  10. Sue Malak says:

    While being hurt and worrying the next time a hurtful comment would come out of somebodies mouth (and my son might hear)….I was worrying if I was keeping my son back on something he could learn and do for himself. But the know -it -all’s didn’t know that this momma had a billion things on her mind and didn’t need their (did you know) input. It’s all good now…this mom knows better not to bother about careless words.

    BTW, Shawna….I do see growth in your older son…..as I knew it would….and your youngest son is on his way….not to say he hasn’t grown…..but I see lots more to come for both boys.
    Keep on truck mom!

  11. Barbara Bormey-Espinozza says:

    You know it, you live it, YOU GET IT !! Love, Love, Love ❤️ your blog !

  12. I’m still tying my sons shoes and he’s 15.

  13. My kids really like the Tiger Claw martial arts shoes available on Amazon for about $20. They can be worn without socks and washed with the laundry. You can feel the ground a bit through them, but that also makes my kids more stable. They need a new pair about every 6 months.

    1. GREAT suggestion! Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. My daughter tied her shoes for the first time this week. She is 10 and I am so happy! Her little sister, 7, has been tying them for her sometimes and it’s just so much better for her to be able to do it for herself.

  15. Katharine Harvard says:

    My son is 15 and I still tie his laces. The looks we get in public are disgraceful. Some people have even commented. I would of thought that people would be more aware but seems there are still many ignorant people out there.

    1. It really is shocking how many people feel compelled to comment. Kudos to you for doing what is best for your son, despite the judgement.

  16. Stephanie says:

    Awww….sending hugs over the internet! I am sorry people have been so awful to you! I feel that the experience of parenting would have been more enjoyable without so many people thinking it’s ok to pass judgement on others (when they are basing it on knowing a tiny sliver of an individual’s life!). My oldest child was awful with socks. I remember one morning getting so frustrated I literally held her upside-down and forced the socks then shoes on her feet. Not my finest moment. We were getting warned by the elementary school because we were just a minute or two late so often because of sock battles! It didn’t seem to matter how early we got up, it would just take her even longer to adjust the socks to feel ok on her feet! Eventually I realized if I could put her socks and shoes on her while she was sleeping, by the time she woke up enough to be aware of it, she was already used to it! (I would have to have her get dressed half asleep, and tell her to lay down again, and she’s drift off to sleep, and that was when I put the socks and shoes on!) By 3rd grade we were homeschooling, which eliminated the problem. And as she got older the problem lessened anyway! My 2nd and 3rd kids had the issue but to much lesser degrees, and my fifth kid actually has the issue-but it’s with how the lines on underwear and pants feel on her body! I think it’s wonderful that you have the confidence and the heart to put this info out to help others!

  17. L. Minnix says:

    You know best Momma! Sending hugs! The struggle is real!

  18. Good for you! NO ONE knows what each parent experiences with their respective children and we do need to trust our instincts more. At the same time, if no one know what we experience, they need to keep their mouths shut. But they won’t so Ive learned to politely smile and say “Thanks” and continue to do what I need to do. Even though my mind is thinking something I can’t type. 🙂

  19. This post made me cry. My son is 12 and we still brush his teeth. I’ve received some hurtful judgment about this from family members. Luckily my husband gets it. So glad I found your blog. ❤️

  20. Marisol Stewart says:

    My son didn’t do a lot of things at the “normal” milestone markers. I got flack from my family and friends. After a while, I just stopped hearing them (i.e. I ignored them completely) because I knew I was doing the right things for my child. He is now a freshman in college and living in a dorm on his own. He called me the other day to tell me that he put jello on his tray in the lunchroom and had a panic attack. He told me ” It wasn’t the fact that I had a panic attack, it is the fact that I touched jello. Mom, I’m so proud of myself.” Keep doing the best for you and yours. You are doing great!!

  21. My son will be 14 this week, and I still tie his shoes, sometimes. Because the texture of the laces creates a burning sensation on his skin. So yes. I will continue to do this small thing for him as long as he needs it and lives here. Why not? Kudos, mama.

  22. I really just love you and your site. My (middle) 21 year old with ASD still has pronounced fine motor skill struggles and I helped him tie his shoes into his teens because he really truly couldn’t do it. My youngest (age 8) still sleeps with me due to anxiety. So many times I wish I had listened to my mothering instincts instead of giving into shame of what folks thought. Because in the end it really doesn’t matter what they think.

    1. Love you right back!
      Thank you so much for sharing.

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