Are your parenting methods helping your children to stand on their own two feet?
As parents we always want what’s best for our children. We want them to grow and develop into independent and strong men and women, to have minds of their own, and to be selfreliant. It’s too bad then that we often turn out to be their worst enemies, hovering over their every move and protecting them from the realities of life. We’ve all heard the term ‘helicopter parents’ – those who over-protect and stand as the buffer between their children and life, eliminating
each and every threat they may encounter, whether it’s from teachers who try to discipline, or friends who argue and
fight. We might have the best intentions in these situations, but the unfortunate reality is that we do little more than
hamper their independence and confidence when we continually act on their behalf.
It’s all about balance
Experts agree that it’s possible to strike a balance between allowing your children to accomplish tasks on their own and stepping in when they really do need your help.
‘Powerful parents know that while they want their children to succeed, there’s great value in making mistakes and learning from them,’ says Dr Robyn Silverman, clinical therapist.
A tactical approach
Let’s be honest – parenting can easily be compared to a well-played version of an Xbox war game. Our goal as parents is to instil our beliefs, guidelines and ethics into the lives of the children we love and care for. Our children’s goal is to destroy the enemy (us parents) at all cost: ‘Do not stop, do not falter’. Each side is set in their strategy – eyes on the mission, neither side prepared to compromise.
So how do we achieve the task of making kids more independent without losing our own authority? The answer is:
unwavering expectations. There’s no harm in creating expectations for your children. Expectations create goals. They allow our kids to strive for success, and – more importantly – enjoy the fruits of their hard work and determination.
A culture of accountability
Creating a culture of accountability for your children is essential in your tactical strategy! The reality is that most adults and kids have a difficult time taking responsibility for their own actions and the choices they make. Accountability – and teaching accountability – is important, because without it kids pass the blame, fail to follow rules and find ways to justify their actions. If not rectified, this type of behaviour can continue into their adult years.
Passing the blame and justifying situations becomes difficult when you have a culture of accountability at home. Children learn that there’s no excuse for bad behaviour, regardless of what provokes it.
Let them learn now
You’ve probably seen the Facebook post that says: ‘If a child knows how to operate a video game controller, cellphone or tablet – they also know how to operate the dishwasher, lawnmower and vacuum cleaner!’ Jo Frost, aka Supernanny and author of Ask Supernanny, agrees. ‘There are plenty of simple jobs they can do: pick up after themselves, make their beds, take out the garbage, set the table, help in the garden… tackling chores successfully can be a great way of boosting kids’ confidence and self-esteem,’ she says.
Let them fall
There’s nothing tougher than stepping back and watching your child muddle through a decision making process. As parents we do our kids no favours by taking away their freedom of choice and decision-making abilities. In Teach Your Children Well, Madeline Levine (PhD) says, ‘It’s easy to see how a child’s sense of self can wither under the well-intentioned but overprotective, even intrusive style of parenting that has become the norm today.’
She adds, ‘By interfering and “protecting” unnecessarily, by being unable to tolerate their mistakes and failures, we rob them of the capacity to develop and fortify the coping skills necessary for navigating their developmental tasks well and for understanding their inner selves.’
While it’s essential that we’re actively involved in our children’s lives and know the struggles they’re facing, we do them a bigger favour by stepping back and allowing them to navigate their own challenges. Our kids feel a great sense of accomplishment when they overcome a challenge and find a solution.
Let them be daring
Child development experts agree that allowing children to take risks helps with their progress. Take toddlers learning to walk, for example. Before they master walking, they’ll totter, wobble, fall over – and then get up again! Their determination to succeed is seen in their constant attempts to try again and again. Allowing our children to take safe
risks lets them learn how to face a challenge, deal with conflict and ultimately move forward.
“Children that have not learnt how to make their own decisions, experience failures and learn from mistakes are known by college counsellors as “failure deprived” ” – Madeline Levine
Lean on me
Raising a self-reliant child doesn’t mean we send them out, take a step back and watch as they sink or swim. While training, guiding and growing our kids, we still have the privilege of walking beside them and supporting them. We should always be their first shoulder to cry on and their first willing ear. They should know that, despite their mistakes, we’re there for them, proud of them and supporting them.
- The benefits from the experience far outweigh the risk of possible harm.
- The consequences of the potential risk are likely to be minor or insignificant.
- The adults think carefully about the risks, know the children well and have taken appropriate action to minimise the risks.