Parenting by fear – are we doing more damage than good?
Some amount of fear is natural and appropriate in parents. We love our kids so much that the thought of anything terrible happening to them sends us into a cold sweat. Yet if we're not careful, this can become too oppressive and it can actually guard our kids from the very things they need to be able to know how to deal and cope with. While keeping our children safe is of utmost importance, we have to know when to draw the line and let our kids experience life, even the painful parts. A fall off the swing or jungle gym teaches them not to be so reckless. Not making a sports team teaches them to try harder if they really want something or to pick another interest that might better suit their strengths.
Let Go Of Fear
It's important to let go of parenting fears if we want our kids to be confident and responsible. By acting as regulator or “helicopter parent” we run the risk of raising kids who are unable to think for themselves. Fear has a way of silencing the innate instincts we all have for discriminating between what's right and wrong; safe and unsafe. Failure to study results in a poor grade. Poor grades mean we either need different strategies have to learn how to study better, need to prioritize our activities, etc… It's through experience that our children learn which choices work and which ones don't. The helicopter parent who brings the lunch up when their child forgets (one day of going slightly hungry never hurt a child) or the parent who runs up to school with the forgotten sports equipment just prolong the learning experience for the child and keep them more dependent on us. My son forgot his school shoes one day (don’t ask me how but he managed to leave my car with just his socks on!) He desperately tried to reach me but could not so he improvised and made shoes out of paper bags and managed quite well! The slip-up taught resourcefulness.
A child who learns to be responsible and independent is ultimately a child who knows how to succeed in life. But as a parent, it's tough to know when your kids are ready for more freedom. It is also very scary to relinquish some of the responsibility that has worked so well when they were young! It's important to allow your child as much independence as possible without jeopardizing his safety. As you watch your child grow in confidence and ability, you'll be better able to trust his judgment. And the more you allow your children to build life skills, the more you'll find your fears subsiding and the happier your child will be.
Questions to Ask
Take the time to breathe and look into your fears. Are our fears realistic, is the danger real? Or is this more about how I want my child to be. Do we do the school work for our child because it is good for them? Do we put more emphasis on the grade and less on the skill required for lasting success? Tease out what is about you and your wants versus what are the necessary skills that our child needs to know about life and how to succeed.
Parenting with Hope
In order to parent with hope, we have to change our attitude from overprotection to one that teaches responsibility. Once we allow our children to suffer the age-appropriate consequences of their actions, even if it means watching them get hurt a bit, we give them the chance to learn a little more about how life works.
To parent with hope is to understand that the circumstances our kids face are not the final goal, but rather the tools used to shape their character.
The fact is, most of the time, our kids' lives turn out completely different than we plan AND it is what works for them!