Children crave structure, routine and boundaries. A watchful parent can provide the structure needed while balancing the obvious need for safety, love and security. It is a difficult observation when an older child is first on their own as a young adult and confronts troubles, difficulties, tragic consequences, and just can’t seem to gain their footing. What a sore sight to know that your child is not prepared for the real world when realizing in hind sight that maybe too much assistance, enabling, helping, and co-dependency had been fostered. This post will focus on how to aid your child in the developing years to allow them to be the most successful, capable, independent human.
Allowing your child to struggle is a struggle for YOU as the parent! It is so hard to witness a struggle knowing you could easy step in, take over and end it all in an instant, saving time in the end. This is very difficult to overcome as a parent. No one teaches us as parents how taxing it will be watching your own child grow and develop. It can be beautiful and rewarding, but also very hard at times. Finding that delicate space between frustration and concentration in our children is a true art. Frustration indicates it is time; time to step in, with permission, and assist as little as needed. Concentration, which usually absorbs time, time that is often hard to give up as parents, allows for the most penetrating of lessons.
If you can first, take the time to relax and observe your child at work or play and just notice when they encounter difficult things. Take special note on how they confront the problems. This will indicate where you could start. If your child gets frustrated often, it may be an indication they are either helped often, perfection is the standard or there are other outside factors contributing. Encouragement should be offered first and foremost followed by assistance when needed but only after you can determine how little help is needed. If you happened to catch your child in a moment of fierce concentration, let them be. Watch from a distance and take note of how long they focus, how long they may struggle with OUT asking for help and be careful not to make yourself known. Being present in the most absent of ways is incredibly powerful in these circumstances. If you can see your child through to completion as you observe, watch the satisfaction and contentment on their sweet faces after they have resolved the issue. It is amazing.
As a parent, allowing for natural consequences when able with your child can be quite a rewarding and lasting experience. I will attempt to provide some examples. I have a child in his adolescence now who has been and is still quite forgetful. We try to help him with coping skills and some things have worked and stuck. He will forget his lunch box. Often. One has gone missing entirely, to our knowledge, and has not made it back home. His natural consequence now is his lunch is made in a paper sack. Disposable. Everything has to be disposable. This means no lunchmeat, as it would require a cold pack. We won’t send a cold pack because we are afraid it wouldn’t return. Peanut butter and jelly it is. Every day until he gets sick of it enough that he searches hard enough for his lunchbox. He would loose winter jackets. Yes, JACKETS. We are talking multiple in one season. When he ran out of what we provided, he would just need to layer up on his clothes until he could help earn enough to get a new (new to him, but we only would buy a used) jacket. My four year old is learning about the changing weather and the clothes or shoes required. Lucky for us, she tends to overdress, meaning she take a layer off once she begins her day. There is nothing wrong with making a simple statement as you are dressing, “I’ll be wearing long pants and a sweater today since the weather will be chilly.” Or, “Today, it is raining. I think it will be smart for me to wear my rain boots to keep my feet dry.” These statements should be made within earshot of your child, but not necessarily directly to them. This allows for engagement, trust, and choice.
We had guests for dinner a few nights ago and upon spilling juice on the table which spilled over on to her chair and the floor, our daughter stood up, asked what she should use to clean it up and proceeded to get the job done as the rest of our family and our guests continued with their meal. A guest made the comment, “That was the most relaxing spill I’ve ever seen.” There was no need to get after her for making a mistake. We want our children to make mistakes and feel safe making them. If they are making mistakes, they are trying. That is the point here. Allow your children to try. The more they try the more they will begin to succeed. Let’s teach them as young as possible and raise confident mistake makers. A confident mistake maker will be a person that does not quit, perseveres, is dedicated, focused, loyal and in the end a success. Let your child try. Let them fail. Cheer them on, from a distance, and as quietly as possible. Offer your silent, approving looks versus, disapproving, disappointed faces. Your child is a gift. Your child is not your own. They are their own. Helping them find themselves is an amazing journey we have the blessing to observe and assist with when necessary. Provide a safe environment. Provide a consistent model of appropriateness. As you do this, your world and your child’s will open to such an amazing level of understanding and learning.