Golden Rule #3: Provide Support While Encouraging Independence
Empowerment does not mean doing everything for your children – is means giving your children the guidance and confidence to back their own judgement. It is an important part of preparing a young person for the demands of the world. The more your children come to rely on you, the less able they will be to rely on themselves.
Guidance – Not Dependence
When presented with a challenge facing our child, it is by far the easiest approach to use our experience to create a solution, which can then be given directly to the young person. Problem solved.
If we know an answer, the quickest and least demanding response is to provide it, so that things can move efficiently onward. If we see our children making a mistake, is it natural to ‘set them straight’ immediately – even forcefully – to avoid inconvenience, embarrassment or extra work that the mistake might produce.
But is this the best approach?
Remember the role of the parent is that of a ‘guide’ – not oracle, dictator or ‘fairy godmother’. If the young never have to solve problems or deal with adversity or consequences, how can they learn how to react to such events, when you are no longer there to solve everything for them?
During times of disappointment or crisis, let your children know that you still love and support them, no matter the result.
The research of Professor Allan Snyder indicates that being able to cope with and embrace the learnings provided by setbacks and adversity is one of the key markers of championship.
In What Makes a Champion!, Professor Snyder writes:
Champions are often familiar with adversity. They have to ‘fight’ to get where they are…They learn how to convert…’upsets into setups’…Struggling is the early learning process possibly acclimatises us to difficulties, and may advantage us in dealing with adversity [later]. What has emerged from our research is the possible necessity of overcoming adversity as a preparation for being a champion.
As a parent, your support for your child during periods of adversity is great for their morale. Show that you will help if they need you to, but don’t offer or try to solve every problem for them immediately.
For parents of pre-school children, this may be as simple as allowing your child to see if they can balance on a balance beam by themselves and resist the temptation to run up and hold their hand before they ask.
It could be standing back and giving your child some time to test their negotiating skills if you observe that they have begun to argue with their friend over the use of a toy.
We may watch our child attempt to follow the instructions on the Lego packet, even if they become a little frustrated and make mistakes, rather than doing it quickly for them.
We might encourage our shy child to stand at the ice-cream shop counter and, using their ‘big voice’, give their order to the shop assistant themselves rather than doing it for them.
Gradually Introduce Responsibility
By assuming accountability one small step at a time, young people learn to develop responsible attitudes. They feel more useful and valued, and invariably respond positively. To learn responsibility, they need to practice being responsible.
Your example is important, of course, but you wouldn’t expect a child to learn to ride a bike just by watching you. Observation gives them the basic principles, but they need to sit on the seat and ‘get a feel’ of the pedals and handle bars, and learn to balance if they are ever going to become an accomplished bike rider.
To Sum Up
When assessing your child’s performance or achievement when dealing with challenges:
- Show that you will help if they need you to, but don’t offer or try to ‘solve’ every problem for them immediately.
- Gradually introduce responsibility to your children.
This article is a modified excerpt from the book ‘Pre-school Parenting Secrets – Talking with the Sky’. Get the book here or from major bookstores.