Parents today are educated and more in touch with our children than in previous years. We are aware of the need to listen to our children, validate their emotions and guide them in their development. The problem comes when we are over protective and employ what is known to be “helicopter parenting” The world today can be frightening and there seems to be many more dangers facing our children than when we were growing up! And so it is totally understandable that this type of parenting has evolved. However there are many repercussions of this that has now been studied and proven; it becomes apparent when a child goes to school. If we as parents are constantly being a continuous play mate, solving problems, making decisions, preventing any struggles or failures that our children may experience, we are denying our children the opportunity to learn how to problem solve, use appropriate conflict resolution; how to persevere and to learn from their mistakes. These are all skills that we use daily in our adult lives and are skills that our children will need in the future to negotiate life. If they do not learn these skills even their personal relationships with significant others will suffer! Also by being over protective and over involved; we unknowingly transfer our anxiety onto our kids, making them feel anxious and even more dependent on our interventions. They feel as if you are not confident in their ability to cope! Below and alongside are some ideas that you can use to help your little one to grow, develop his/her confidence, independence and age appropriate autonomy
- Encourage children’s independence by ensuring they complete age appropriate tasks on their own. Teach them how to put on their socks, take off their shoes for example. They become so proud of themselves when they can do these tasks. At school we encourage them to pack away their lunch boxes, take off their shoes etc- if they can do it at school- encourage them to do it at home. If you teach them how- they will not get frustrated and then you will not have to keep intervening or taking over.
- By the time they are 4 (if not before even), encourage your child to walk into school by themselves, carry their own bag and to unpack their own lunch. Assure them you will help them or will hold their hand if they are anxious when they walk in; but also assure them that they are capable of doing this, that they are going to be ok and that you.
- Take the extra time in the mornings to allow them to get ready without jumping in every two minutes to hurry them up or complete something that they are trying to get right.
- Make a chart “cool things that …… can do by herself!” Add pictures of tasks that they manage independently and watch the list grow together with their pride and capabilities!
- Don’t hover, rather be a “submarine parent” by lurking in the background. Then you can keep an eye on your child’s safety and intervene only when really necessary. Count to 10 before becoming involved in conflicts, sharing difficulties or when they are struggling with a task. Give them a chance to figure it out. If your intervention is still needed after counting to 10; then rather ask your child how he thinks the problem should be solved resist just flying in and solving the problem.
- Don’t continually question your child to the point that you make them anxious about things. “Are you ok?” “Did you play with anyone at school” “Were you scared” all these types of questions can make your child feel like the situation is something to feel anxious about. “What was your happiest moment at school today? “ “What did you do when Jonnie made you feel sad at the party? What do you think you could do next time this happens?” are better ways to address situations, allow your child to problem solve and then give ideas too about ways to tackle situations. In this way they learn to cope and manage situations for themselves!
- Always encourage your child to face a situation that they are unsure about and never just say “ ok you do not have to try that” Rather encourage small steps so that he/she learns to persevere and overcome anxieties. You know your child well and only remove them from the situation if you know that they are not gaining anything from it! Discuss the situation, how you will be there for them and how they are safe, that nothing is harmful in this situation. Even if your child manages two minutes of a strange new activity; the life lesson they are learning is invaluable. This is not to say that you should not validate their fears; but rather that you help them to conquer them. “I also feel scared of some things at times. I will not ask you to do anything that will hurt you. I understand you feel scared but You are ok, you will be safe, I will be here if you need me and you will be so proud of yourself if you manage to cope.