Parenting is hard. And sometimes, trying to care too much for our children can do them more harm than good. This, at least, is what Dr Tim Elmore, bestselling author of books like Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids to Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, told Forbes.
He summarised seven things that parents need to stop doing to help their children become leaders:
Risk and children don’t mix, but there is a danger of ‘insulating them from healthy risk-taking behaviour,’ says Dr Elmore. ‘Kids need to fall a few times to learn it’s normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. If parents remove risk from children’s lives, we will likely experience high arrogance and low self-esteem in our growing leaders,’ he warns.
Many parents rescue their children before they learn to save themselves from hardships. ‘It’s parenting for the short-term and it sorely misses the point of leadership – to equip our young people to do it without help,’ says Dr Elmore. ‘Sooner or later, kids get used to someone rescuing them.’
Local clinical psychologist, Annette du Toit Steele, has this to add: ‘The consequences of a child’s behaviour must lie with the child, not in your relationship with the child. If they haven’t finished their homework, don’t berate them and protect them at school. Let the teacher give them zero and detention so they learn there are real-life consequences to behaviour that don’t end with parents.’
3) Easy praise
It’s terrible seeing your little one in pain with a bruised ego, but if every child is awarded a ‘participation’ medal at sporting events, and if every behaviour is profusely praised, ‘they begin to doubt the objectivity of their parents; it feels good in the moment, but it’s not connected to reality,’ explains Dr Elmore. ‘Children eventually learn to cheat, exaggerate and lie and to avoid difficult reality. They have not been conditioned to face it.’
4) Say ‘no’
‘Your kids will get over the disappointment, but they won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So tell them “no” or “not now,” and let them fight for what they really value and need,’ says Dr Elmore.
5) Share past mistakes
Teenagers are trying to spread their wings and need to try to do things on their own. A good way to help, without controlling them, is to share your own past mistakes; not negative lessons associated with drinking or drugs, but rather ‘relevant mistakes you made when you were their age in a way that helps them learn to make good choices,’ says Dr Elmore.
6) Mistaking intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity
‘Intelligence is often used as a measurement of a child’s maturity, and as a result parents assume an intelligent child is ready for the world. That’s not the case. Some professional athletes and Hollywood starlets, for example, possess unimaginable talent, but still get caught in a public scandal,’ says Dr Elmore. Also beware of holding your child back. A good rule of thumb is to watch the behaviour and responsibility of their peers. ‘If you notice that they are doing more themselves than your child does, you may be delaying your child’s independence.’
7) Practice what you preach
‘Do what I say and not what I do’ is a rule most parents inadvertently end up teaching. However, cutting corners, telling white lies and taking ethical shortcuts will teach your children to do the same. Likewise, living a good life and leaving things better than you found them will teach them the value of selflessness.