Last week I spoke about the 6 things that most parents need to stop doing so that their kids can get on with developing their own sense who they are and where they fit into the world.
Before I get to 6 things that parents CAN do to add to this process and help their children I’d like to, briefly, respond to some of the comments I received last week. So just to clarify:
Kids are no different than adults in that they will determine for themselves what feels right for them and what doesn’t. Our job as parents is to monitor the process and if we see that our child is struggling with certain things then we ask them things like ‘I noticed . . . what’s happening?” or “How did that. . . turn out for you?” or “How did you feel when that happened?” We pay attention but we don’t own their problem. It’s hard because we have that natural protective thing going on and we don’t want to see our kids hurting or unhappy in any way. I get that. However, we can’t dictate what they should do to fix something or how they should feel. When we do this they don’t learn to think for themselves nor do they get to assess their successes and what, if anything, they might do differently next time.
Next: Our children’s sense of self has little to do with other people. If we have encouraged them and helped them develop the skills to deal with adversity, indifference and disappointment they will be just fine. They are the only ones who see the world through their own filters. We parents are their teachers. Our job is to model the behaviour we would like to see in them. To paraphrase Gandi–‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’. We cannot go around being aggressive and demanding and expect our kids to be kind and nurturing. Enough said.
So what can we do as parents: (I’ll use the example of ‘little Johnny’)
Let’s consider the difference between ‘encouragement’ and ‘praise’. When we praise our kids our words are often heard, by the child, as something he/she has done that has made us feel good about him/her and the effort they made to accomplish something. This makes the outcome about ‘you’ and how ‘you’ feel about how/what they did. However, our response needs to be about the effort they put into what they accomplished and that you recognize their hard work. So it’s not “I feel great about seeing you up there receiving that award” but rather “It seems all of that hard work and effort you put into getting ready for the competition really paid off–good for you.” This is encouragement. This approach forges a stronger belief of self in their abilities to do for themselves.
1. You mention that it looked as though he was having fun just being out there playing. You could ask him if he would like to play again next year. Let him tell you what the experience was like for him.
2. If he was disappointed about not winning a trophy then this becomes a teachable moment and you can encourage him to work harder for next year. He needs to understand that if he wants to win a trophy (or succeed at anything he wants) then he may have to work harder. There are no ‘free-bees’in the real world. Maybe he could ask his dad to help him with his skating or his stick handling–anything like that. Leave it up to him to figure out what he needs to do.
3. If he is upset by not winning a trophy help him understand that being unsuccessful at something is not failure but a message that says ‘if you want this then you have to do what it takes to get it.’Let him know that you will support him with whichever decision he makes as long as it is doable and not because he is angry or disappointed.
4. As parents we need to encourage our kids to do the things that are ‘age appropriate’ for them. In other words encourage him/her to do things to rectify their problems or to come to their decisions based on their knowledge and experience levels. We might ask them ‘what have you done before that worked out for you when this happened?’ The solution becomes theirs and with it comes a sense that they are capable of dealing with things themselves.
5. Exchange shame and guilt (poor motivators for change) for love and encouragement. Much better results and longer lasting too.
6. As parents we need to begin seeing our children as strong, durable and worthy of a good life and not fragile, broken or in need of our protection. As soon as we step in to take the problem over we rob them of the opportunity to learn, thrive and succeed. When we do that we take away their opportunity to become more independent, competent and capable therefore taking from them the opportunity that was presented to deepen their own self value and self esteem.
I chose to use the picture of the birds because it demonstrates that, at sometime, our kids will want to leave the nest and try it on their own. Let’s help them get ready while we can.
That’s how I see it anyways–all the best–Jim
As always I welcome comments pro/con. if it’s a con then include what you think should happen so that I have the opportunity to learn from you.
Please pass this along to friends and others who might benefit.