Raising independent, self-reliant kids
I recently read an article about some teens who got themselves in trouble for cheating on an exam. The parents immediately stepped in, negotiated with the school to keep things quiet and swept everything under the rug. My first thought was...What message did these parents give their kids?
I suppose, in some way, they thought they were helping their kids. It's typical for parents to want to see their kids move ahead and succeed. We all want our kids to do well in life, right? At what point is our helping actually hindering their growth and maturity? Here's the issue: Parents are taking away the opportunity for kids to learn skills they'll need as adults! Some parents feel it's their duty to come in, completely clear the path ("snowplow" it, if you will) and make things perfect for their child. You guys, we are cheating our kids out of very valuable life lessons when we move every obstacle out of their way! Oh, I'm guilty of it too! When things were hard, I'd try to make it less hard. "I'll just help by running to the store to get what you need even though you should have told me 4 weeks ago when you first got the assignment." YEP, that was me coming to the rescue. What did I cheat my kids out of learning? Time management, project planning and execution, responsibility, and respect (my time is just as important as theirs!) are all on that list of missed life lessons. When our kids were first learning to walk, we would hold their hand to steady them, but eventually we had to let go...it's part of the process of building their independence. Learning to ride a bike? Same process, support them then let go and send them on their way. The same holds true when they move from grade to grade, when they learn to drive a car or get their first jobs. Really, we can narrow it down to 3 words: TEACH. SUPPORT. RELEASE. TEACH It is our job to give our kids the skills, strategies and tools they need While there isn't a "handbook" to give them for each situation, we do our best to prepare them for what life may bring. When we do a good job of teaching them "how" to do things, we are giving them the life skills they'll need as they move from childhood through the teen years and into adulthood. SUPPORT At some point, we have to move from the "teaching" role to the "support" role. What does that mean? After giving our kids the tools, we need to step back and allow them to practice using those tools. We offer some feedback, but let them discover how to use what they know and how to problem solve. Parents can be the "go to" for advice and someone to lean on when things get challenging, but it's our job at this stage to encourage, guide and build their confidence that they can do it. RELEASE This is the hardest part for most of us! It was exactly 5 years ago today that our first born packed the U-Haul and drove out west to her very first teaching position. She was moving from Central Ohio to North Dakota and my heart was bursting with pride at her bravery, sadness because I'd miss her so much, and fear (what mama want's their daughter to go THAT far away for such a major life event?!). Watching her and her dad drive away (he went with her to help her drive cross country and move her stuff in) was so hard and yet I knew we did what we could to raise her well and now it was time to release her on her journey. Scariest day ever, but it was time for her to follow her heart and her path. When we release our kids it is showing them we have confidence in them. Our kids know we will always love them and be here for them, but we will also encourage them to continue to grow as independent human beings. What lessons do our kids learn we follow the Teach, Support, Release steps? 1. Independence and Responsibility
In this world of immediate gratification, kids get frustrated when they can't have what they want when they want it. Instead of figuring out how to get it themselves, some kids will use guilt to pressure their parents to make things better for them.
In the case of the testing scandal, some parents took it upon themselves to handle their child's problem so they could feel better about "setting them up for success." Others may have felt they needed to help their child because it's what they've always done. In protecting the kids, the parents took away the opportunity for the students to learn how to be accountable for their actions and to make amends for their decisions. Some parents have fallen into the false belief that giving your kids what they want will make them happier. Actually, it's cutting them off from a very important lesson: YOU are capable and YOU can do this on your own. I promise you this, if your kids have to put in some effort, they'll appreciate the accomplishment so much more later. Oh, they may not admit it, but it's true!
2. Work Ethic
When parents cover things up for kids or make things easier, kids are cheated them out of a big step in growing up. Those students missed out on the satisfaction of seeing what they are capable of doing on their own. They didn't have the stretch out of their comfort zone, put in the hard work and truly say, "I did this. This is mine." When we make everything easy for our kids, we take away their opportunity to learn new skills, problem solve and figure out how to get what they want in life. As adults, they won't get a paycheck without putting in the work, so it's a good thing to teach them good work ethics and taking pride in their accomplishments when they are young. I'm not saying throw a parade every time they do their chores, but a small "Hey, nice job" goes a long way in teaching this lesson.
Parents who make everything easy for their kids take away the chance for their kids to learn to stick with it when things get hard. Life has it's challenges, that's just part of the journey. When we encourage our kids to push through, problem solve and seek out the resources they need , then they learn "effort brings achievements." So, as the school year is about to begin for many, it's a good time to remind ourselves to Teach, Support and Release the kids through the school year. In the long run, school is more about the life lessons we learn and apply than it is the grades we achieve. (I just wish we were more upfront with that thought process!)
If this topic resonates with you and you'd like some quick tips on how to step back and let your kids grow in their independence, I'm here to help! You can book a free 30-minute Discovery Call and we'll talk about some easy-to-implement strategies! (No pushy sales pitch will come with this offer, I promise!) Photo by Agung Pandit Wiguna on Pexels