For my first post of 2012 it is appropriate to begin with a discussion of parents’ most important job: raising strong, self reliant, independent and self confident children. Almost every parent, I expect, would join in a chorus of agreement that raising such children is a noble goal.
Raising self reliant confident children is the consequence of imposing… I’ll use the word again… consequences. Children must be allowed to fail. Children must be taught to “pick themselves up and get back in the race,” as sung by Frank Sinatra in the stirring song, “That’s life.”
I became aware of Michele Borba’s work many years ago. I referenced her work and luminous insights in my book. I have had the pleasure of corresponding with her on Twitter and then by email and by telephone. She is a giant in the field of raising strong emotionally healthy confident children. Most of us, in the words of Sir Isaac Newton, stand on her shoulders.
I recently read Michele’s article, Raising Self-Reliant Kids, in her Reality Check section of her blog, where she addresses issues pertaining to all parenting issues and offers solutions to those issues. See http://www.micheleborba.com/blog/2011/01/21/raising-self-reliant-kids/
Here are a few key paragraphs from her article. I recommend reading the entire article.
Think about how you usually act when your child seems frustrated, seeks help, fails or isn’t doing a task up to your standards. Here are a few possibilities:
The Parenting Style Quiz
Protector: “If you need anything, I’ll be sitting right here during the party.”
Rescuer: “I’ll figure it out for you, honey.”
Over-involved: “I’m calling that kid’s parent and telling her to invite you.”
Enabler: “You’re tired, sweetie. Go to sleep and I’ll finish this for you.”
Perfectionist: “I’m remaking your bed; you didn’t tuck the corners in just right.”
Or something else?
The truth is, if you want to raise an independent kid who can someday thrive (and survive) without you–and oh how I hope you do!–you need to show some restraint in the “lend-a-hand” department. Data shows that the 21st century parenting style is a lot of protecting, rescuing, helicoptering, over-involving, micromanaging, and enabling and it’s not doing our kids any favors.
Here are tips to help you move from “Doer” to “Guider.” (Believe me, your child will thank you someday!)
Strategies to Build Self-Reliance
Learn to Guide, Not Do
If you really want your child to become self-sufficient and thrive without you, your role must be of a guider, and not doer.
Back Off From What Kids Can Do Solo
It may be time for your child to fix his own launch, make her bed, do some laundry or call for a dentist’s appointment. It depends on your child’s age, maturation, and current capabilities, of course. The goal is to not overwhelm children with new expectations. Gradually introduce only one new task at a time. Here are three the steps to teaching kids any new skill:
Teach, Guide, Step Back
1. Teach your child how to do the task.
2. Then step to the side and guide your child (watching to ensure that your son or daughter can do the task.
3. Finally, step back when your child has mastered the skill. It’s now time to teach another life skill or task.
Think: What is the one new task I can teach my child today using these three steps that will help him on the road to independence?
You may have found yourself rescuing your kids a lot lately. And oh the excuses we use: “Kyle’s too busy. I’ll do her chores tonight.”
One way to change this pattern is to start with a family meeting where you agree together on a new policy about taking responsibility—whether it’s for doing chores or finishing homework—and how any lapses will be handled. That will also help teach children that their actions have consequences.
Your new parenting mantra: “Never do for your child what your child can do for himself.”
Talk About the Future
Encourage children to think beyond the here and now, as appropriate for their age. For example, with a young child you might take about the next day or with an older child, the coming summer. This is particularly important because, as author Mel Levine has written in A Mind at a Time, we are experiencing an epidemic of “career unreadiness.” Levine believes there are four major qualities common in young people who make success life transitions:
- The are self-aware,
- They are keen observers of the outside world,
- They possess certain “tools” (the ability to master skills, develop work efficiency, and think productively), and
- They are strong communicators.
Final Thoughts (from who could be better) Confucius
My favorite parenting quote is from Confucius:
“The most beautiful sight in the world is a child going confidently down the road of life after you have shown the way.”