One way children learn is by mimicking others, typically the parents. Modeling responsible adult behavior is one key ingredient to raising healthy children. Responsible behavior requires one to own up to their behavior and accept the consequences, whether positive or negative. Parenting that tends to hinder healthy growth, however, often robs the child of the ability to own up to their behavior. Such parents swoop down to rescue their child whenever a perceived danger is present. If a child leaves their lunch bag at home, for instance, the parent will be sure to bring the lunch to the child at school, lest the child suffer from hunger pangs. Instead of learning to make certain to carry the lunch bag out the door each morning thereafter, the child is excused from their part to learn responsibility.
Children also learn by trial and error. Failing a task is not inherently bad. Watch a child work with a puzzle. Typically a child will try to fit whichever two pieces they can find, whether or not the two pieces are correct. Using trial and error, the child will eventually complete the puzzle. Parents can hinder a child’s ability to solve their own puzzles by telling them what to do and how to do so. Imagine if the child has a difficult classmate or a friend that takes a toy out of turn. The child loses the ability to think on their own when the parent tells the child how to solve these issues. On the extreme end, these parents tell their children how and when to feel. The parent often uses harsh words and makes many demands on the child, ending with something such as “…or else”.
When these children are at the fledging age, so to speak, they spread out their wings and try to fly. Unfortunately, either their growth was hindered by a parent taking on the responsibility for them, or by not knowing how to behave without someone telling them so. If this has been your experience, as either the parent or the young child, there can be hope.
First, become a parent who believes that their child is capable of making right decisions by using phrases “I know you can solve this issue” or “what do you plan to do in this situation?”. Such phrases indicate that the parent is engaged with the child’s issue and is available to help when needed. The parent helps the child find solutions by offering phrases such as “what would other kids your age solve this issue” or “would you like to know how I dealt with this issue when I was your age?” The parent allows natural consequences to teach whenever possible and encourages the child to believe that failing is not bad, as long as we learn from our mistakes.
Using these steps as a guide, talk with other parents to gain ideas and perspectives on what is working in their children’s lives. Together, we can help our young adults stretch their wings and fly!