Thoughtful Parenting: Allow children to solve their own problems
January 8, 2017
As parents, we all want what is best for our children. Whether it is the best education, best friends, best soccer gear, best outfit, we want them to feel good, to feel like they are special. Yet, we are not allowing them to ever feel bad. We are quick to intervene if they have a teacher they do not like or problems with friends at school, always ensuring that they feel good.
Consequently, as the fix-it parent, we send the message that they cannot handle the challenges in front of them. They never get to know what it feels like to succeed. They have never had to experience the dark depths of hardship and to know the euphoric feeling of overcoming and solving their own problems.
So what are we to do? We let them fail, and hopefully, we let them fail as much as they possibly can before they reach 18. So, by the time they are out of your house, they know what it feels like to have to overcome failures. This is one of the hardest concepts for most parents to grasp, but one of the most important recipes for success.
For example, if your child comes home from school discouraged about how his or her friend was treating them, we offer this suggestion: Always provide a sympathetic response to their situation to let them know you care: "I'm sorry Susie was mean, that must feel awful!"
Next, ask them what they are going to do about it. This gives them ownership of the problem, as it is their problem, not yours. Then, we ask them if they would like help solving the situation. This sets up your position as a consultant parent and eliminates telling them what to do, specifically.
We usually offer three or four suggestions about what might help the situation and encourage parents to offer the worst possible suggestion first: "Maybe you should be just as mean to Susie and she was to you!" Kids usually know this is a bad decision and suggesting it allows them to think through the consequence.
Then, your other two or three suggestions should be ones they might choose. Don't be surprised if they are extremely frustrated and don't want to hear any suggestions. This is OK, too. Just remember to continually repeat the phrase, "I'm sorry you're having to go through that. Let me know if there is anything I can do."
After they have made their decision, which may not be the one you chose, kindly tell them, "Good luck with that." (This usually makes parents cringe.) Understand it may take several days or even weeks for a child to work out his or her problems, just as it does for many adults.
Recognize that, when your child is truly involved in a dangerous situation, you have to intervene. Yet, most situations will be common problems, and by taking a consulting parent role, you will help them gain more self-confidence and life skills by allowing them to solve their own problems.
Beth Wendler and Heather Martyn have stated the Parent2 Partner training series, which offers the "Parenting the Love and Logic Way" workshop. On Jan. 17, their next five week series will be offered from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Thursdays. The workshop is for parents of children birth to age 6. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.