Articles Child Development - Helping Your Child Become Independent
Articles Child Development ...
... one of the issues faced by parents today is when to help children and when to let them struggle on their own. Although well-meaning parents may want to help their kids with everything, stand up for them in every instance and spare them from the pain and humiliation of failure, these experiences offer valuable lessons for the children. In this article, we'll discuss when and how to foster independence in your children.
Before we discuss the when and how, let's talk about why. In recent years, a new term has been used to describe over-involved parents who insist on doing everything for their children. Dubbed "helicopter parents", such parents hover around their children, looking for opportunities down swoop in and rescue their kids from whatever challenges they're facing.
On the flip side of this are parents who think that children have the wisdom to be involved in every decision that affects them. I once met a couple who subscribed to this theory. Problem was: neither one of them had children. Problem two: they published a parenting magazine that promoted this idea. When I suggested that their theory could be dangerous, they defended their position so vehemently, there was nothing left to do but agree to disagree and urge them to read some articles on child development.
Articles child development: Over-involved parents and parents who give their children choices that are beyond their capacity to make, make children feel confused and inferior.
Over-involved parents and parents who consult their children in making decisions whose implications are beyond their grasp both create problems for their kids. Too much freedom can be dangerous for kids, while too little can stunt their urge toward independence. The trick (which is really more of an art) is to raise a child with just enough freedom, so he will be safe (physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually), while fostering his ability to take risks and make choices on his own.
Articles Child Development: Over-involved parents and parents who over-involve children in decisions they're not ready yet to make do an extreme disservice to their children.
Now that we've looked at both sides of the spectrum, let's focus on the over-involved or "helicopter" parent. Such a parent is knee-deep in every area of her child's life. This is the type of parent who does her child's science project for him, who corners her son's friends and demands to know why they called him that name. From the outside, this parent may seem like a caring parent, but she is stunting her child's development by doinng tasks that her son should handle himself. Worse yet, she subtly (or not so subtly) conveys her lack of faith in him every time she does something for him that he could have (and should have) done himself.
Over time, a child will come to resent the parent who tries to fix everything. Beyond this, this type of parenting can affect school performance. Studies have shown that college students with higher than normal levels of contact with their parents have grades that are significantly lower than other students.
Such parents tend to negotiate with their kids in areas that other parents consider non-negotiable and are constantly praising them whether or not praise is warranted. This gives the child a false sense of his power in the world (as though he will be able to negotiate his way out of everything) and a false assessment of his skills and abilities. (Think of the coach's sons who makes the All Star Team when other much more deserving kids are not selected.)
Articles child development: when a parent's sense of identity is enmeshed with others' perceptions of their child's performance, this is dangerous for child and parent.
Why do some parents act this way? Because their sense of self-worth is too enmeshed with their child's performance and they need to get a life! Seriously, the helicopter parent plays a dangerous role. It's dangerous to the parent who will inevitably be disappointed by the child who will forced to reject the parent in order to find himself. Worse still, this child is cheated of opportunities to discover his courage and strengths as he's growing up. It will prove much more challenging to discover this as an adult.
Articles Child Development: Tips for the Hovering Parent
- Encourage your child to make developmentally-appropriate choices.
- Let your child do his homework, unless he asks for help.
- Make corrections, but do not, for instance, turn helping with spelling errors into a chance to rewrite your child's essay.
- Let your child suffer the natural consequences of his actions. For instance, if he plays video games rather than do his homework, don't make an excuse for him so he can avoid the zero he deserves.
- Let your child stand up to other kids (unless there is a bully and it is time to intervene).
- Encourage your child to play outside on play equipment that will allow him to assess his tolerance for risks, take small steps and gain confidence in his physical abilities.
- Role play what to do in certain situations and make sure your child knows what to do when there's an emergency.
- Be a loving guide, not a meddler or a dictator.
Articles Child Development: Helping the Hovering Parent
What is the cure for the hovering parent? Understanding child development helps. Consider reading my parenting book which teaches you how to raise a child to become progressively aware of who he is and what his strengths are as he's growing up, so his life becomes an expression of those strengths. The book teaches you how to engage and encourage your child's interests without creating a dangerous sense of entanglement. Beyond that, the book teaches you more than child development, it teaches the entire cycle of human development from birth to death, so you can set reasonable expectations for child behavior and assess your child's ability to perform tasks and handle challenges at every age. Better still, it teaches where you are along the path of development of consciousness, so you learn to balance concern with your child's growth and development with an interest in your own. Rather than reading a number of unrelated articles on child development, read a book that takes you through the entire process and help you create a relationship with your child that is based on his love and respect for you because you gave him the tools to create a fulfilling life.
About the author: Laura Ramirez is the author of the multiple award-winning parenting book, Keepers of the Children which uses native ideas and developmental psychology to teach parents how to raise children to develop their strengths so their lives become an expression of those strengths and the integrity from which they arise. Her book was awarded a Nautilus Award by Martha Stewart Omnivision which is given to books that promote development of consciousness and social change.
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