Parents love their children and want them to be happy, protected, and successful.
Problems occur, though, when parents control their children too much instead of teaching them independent thinking skills that develop responsibility. Because of parents’ fear, they rush in to solve their children’s problems and take away their pain rather than watch them struggle.
How you May Be Weakening Your Children
Rescuing, overprotecting, doing too much, and even lying for your child weakens her self-esteem because these actions send the message that she is not capable of managing her life.
While it’s true that her ability may be limited now, it will increase with age. Even a five-year-old can think about problems and find solutions with your guidance, not your control. Every time you take away a problem-solving opportunity, your child’s self-esteem diminishes. You will know he feels incapable and defeated when he says, “You think I’m stupid,” “You think I can’t figure it out,” or “You think I’m dumb.”
Even though it’s heart-wrenching to hear these statements, don’t jump in and say, “Of course I don’t think that.” Rather, understand that your actions have sent this unintentional message, and now it’s time to change. Instead, say, “I realize I’ve been acting as if you don’t have your own ideas. I’m learning how to solve our problems together and support you as you make your own decisions.” With this new framework, you can learn how to be the Collaborator when you and your child are struggling together or the Supporter when your child is struggling alone. Thus, rather than feeling badly about himself, your child will think, “My parent believes I have good ideas and will listen to me. I’m so glad I have a parent to help me.”
There are four common ways that parents weaken children which cause them to become immobilized and afraid to challenge themselves and confront problems:
- Doing too much for them: As children mature, it’s crucial to ensure that they take on more responsibility for their daily lives. Don’t let their complaints stop you from having them make their own lunches, get themselves up on time, do their own laundry, and make important decisions, as well as other activities that develop confidence and self-esteem.
- Giving them too much: Be wary of giving your children too much to make up for your own childhood or compete with other parents. I hear many complaints about kids expecting too much and not appreciating what parents do for them. These complaints are a red flag that you’re giving too much without expectations in return and not setting your personal boundaries.
- Overprotecting/rescuing: Children need adults who can handle hearing their upsets without rescuing them or shaming them for their mistakes. Your child’s life won’t be damaged if they forget their lunch or their homework one day. Instead of overprotecting or rescuing your child, let her experience how cause-and-effect impacts her life. Manage your own emotional triggers that cause you to weaken your child even though you believe you are helping her.
- Lying for them/making excuses for their behavior: No parent easily acknowledges that his child is lying, hurting others, or unsuccessful, which is why parents jump in and blame teachers, coaches, or other adults rather than accept their child’s shortcomings. During a dispute with others, an Ally parent doesn’t automatically take her child’s side. Rather, as an ally, you accept all aspects of your child with courage and confidence that improvement will happen with your guidance. Automatically defending your child teaches him to not take responsibility for his actions, which is opposite of what you want. Developmentally, teenagers are masters at lying to meet their needs, so don’t take their misbehavior personally. Rather, use your intuition along with your logical brain to discern the truth and solve problems as a Director, Collaborator, or Supporter.
How you can strengthen your children
When we strengthen our children, they develop courage and high self-esteem. As we teach them problem-solving skills, keep the following points in mind:
- Turn control of their own lives over to your children as soon as possible. When your children say, “I can do it,” give them many opportunities to practice as you patiently support them in a non-controlling manner. Your parental role is to prepare your children for life, not to make life easy for them.
- Hang in there when the going gets tough. Intellectually, you know that children struggle and make mistakes. When you see them making choices that cause you to cringe, it’s crucial that you continue to be their ally and believe in them because they are your children.
- Let your children face their mistakes and use them as an opportunity to grow. Be aware of your inner fears that could cause you to rescue or shame your children in an attempt to relieve your sympathetic suffering. Love them unconditionally, as you want to be loved, and keep in mind that:
- Share how their actions affect others. As you share, avoid shaming, blaming, and communication blocks that make your child feel bad about himself. Instead, express the impact of his actions in a factual manner to reduce the chance of your child becoming defensive. Then, allow him time alone to process what you said rather than interrogate him to get an admission of guilt or an apology in the moment.
To follow the problem-solving path of either the Collaborator parenting role or the Supporter parenting role, focus on teaching your children how to think about their lives and how to make healthy decisions. Avoid controlling your children and causing them put up walls of defiance that prevent you from being able to influence them. To determine how much you are teaching versus controlling your children, ask yourself the following questions: “How many minutes a day do I spend listening to my children so that they can explore their beliefs and feelings and think about possible ways to solve their struggles? How many minutes a day do I tell them what to do, get annoyed or frustrated with their behavior, or without meaning to, criticize them?” Work toward listening more than telling.
To get started, when a challenge arises, first determine who is responsible for solving the problem. If it’s a problem that both you and your child want to solve, follow the guidelines for the Collaborator parenting role. If it’s your child’s challenge to solve, follow the guidelines for the Supporter parenting role so that your child can draw upon your strength, wisdom, and guidance to find successful solutions.
Because the world is so challenging now, there is an urgent need to teach our children how to think more than how to obey. As you listen and have a dialogue with your children, they develop their prefrontal cortex or their thinking brain. Science has shown when we verbalize our thoughts to a good listener, we release emotions and develop greater insight and, therefore, better solutions.
We still need to set guidelines to ensure our children’s safety, yet I propose focusing just as much, if not more, on learning how to listen to and support our children during challenging times. This focus creates a relationship of mutual trust and respect that allows your children to open their hearts to your words of wisdom. They will bask in your love and build a solid foundation of self-confidence for a lifetime.
Copyright 2020 by Cynthia Klein, Parenting Expert, Speaker, Private Coach, and author of Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. To learn more about Cynthia and to contact her go to her website – www. https://bridges2understanding.com. .