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MARIST BROTHERS LINMEYER

This week’s editorial is based on a well-written article in the December 2016 version of the ‘Your Family’ magazine which I believe is relevant to each and every one of us as parents.

“As parents we always want what’s best for our children. We want them to grow and develop into independent and strong men and women, to have minds of their own, and to be self- reliant.  It’s too bad then that we often turn out to be their worst enemies, hovering over their every move and protecting them from the realities of life. We have all tried to be the buffer between our children and life, eliminating each and every threat they may encounter, whether it’s from teachers who try to discipline, or friends who argue and fight. We might have the best intentions in these situations, but the unfortunate reality is that we do little more than hamper their independence and confidence when we continually act on their behalf.

Experts agree that it is possible to strike a balance between allowing your children to accomplish tasks on their own and stepping in when they really do need your help. ‘Powerful parents know that while they want their children to succeed, there’s great value in making mistakes and learning from them.’ Says Dr Robyn Silverman, clinical therapist.
So how do we achieve the task of making kids more independent without losing our own authority? The answer is: unwavering expectations.  There’s no harm in creating expectations for your children.  Expectations create goals. They allow kids to strive for success, and – more importantly – enjoy the fruits of their hard work and determination.

Creating a culture of accountability is essential. The reality is that most adults and kids have a difficult time taking responsibility for their actions and the choices they make. Accountability – and teaching accountability – is important, because without it kids pass the blame, fail to follow rules and find ways to justify their actions.  If not rectified, this type of behavior can continue into their adult years. Passing the blame and justifying situations becomes difficult when you have a culture of accountability at home. Children learn that there’s no excuse for bad behavior, regardless of what provokes it.

That said, however, there is nothing tougher for a parent than stepping back and watching your child muddle through a decision-making process. As parents we do our kids no favours by taking away their freedom of choice and decision making abilities. In Teach Your Children Well, Madeline Levin (PhD) says, “It’s easy to see how a child’s sense of self can wither under the well-intentioned but overprotective, even intrusive style of parenting that has become the norm today.”  She adds, “By interfering and ‘protecting’ unnecessarily, by being unable to tolerate their mistakes and failures, we rob them of the capacity to develop and fortify the coping skills necessary for navigating the developmental tasks well and for understanding their inner selves.”

Our kids do feel a great sense of accomplishment when they overcome a challenge and find a solution.Child development experts agree that allowing children to take risks helps with their progress. Take toddlers learning to walk, for example. Before they master walking, they’ll totter, wobble, fall over – and then get up again! Their determination to succeed is seen in their constant attempts to try again and again. Allowing our children to take safe risks lets them learn how to face a challenge, deal with conflict and ultimately move forward.

I encourage you to take a moment to watch a wonderful video clip entitled, “The Incredible Perseverence of Puppy Dogs” which highlights (in a fun and rather cute manner) the developmental challenges our children face as they develop. Through guided parenting and resilience on the part of the youngster – the end goal is achieved.

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