WITH THE ONSET of social media and having to raise children in the age of information, today’s parents are hyper focused on their child’s development, hyper aware of whether their child has met (or exceeded) the designated milestones and hyper anxious about how their child compares to others of the same age.
This has given rise to an all-new style of overinvolved parenting that sees parents either hovering over their child and/or guiding every step their child takes (otherwise known as helicopter parenting) or removing any literal or figurative difficulties or obstacles that could lie ahead to ensure a smooth path for their little one.
Parents who do the latter have been labelled “lawnmower parents”.
Labels aside, we all want our children to thrive, but have we considered the disservice we do them by eliminating the difficulties they might face in life or by telling them how best to overcome those difficulties instead of letting them figure it out for themselves?
“Children build resilience through learning how to tackle obstacles. If you remove those obstacles, they won’t be able to cope later on in life.
Remember, you won’t always be there to smooth their path.
When parents hover, or if they simply guide their child through the day by telling them what to do or how to do it, they interrupt the positive process of free play, inhibiting exploration, and other independencebuilding exercises.
ALLOW THEM SOME FREEDOM
As a child, your whole life is dictated to you. When and what to eat, when to bath, when to sleep. And now, overinvolved, overprotective and competitive parents are telling children how to play.
Parents are overly conscious of developmental milestones, the correct pencil grip, what colors their child should know, up to where he should be able to count. And then parents are taking free play and trying to control that too.
Parents who do this are not only inhibiting creativity and problem-solving development, but they’re also telling children what to do and how to do it when it could be their one chance in the day to do things the way they want to do it.
ARM THEM WITH AN EMOTIONAL TOOL KIT
Moreover, your child’s ability to selfregulate and manage her emotions also get compromised if she never learns to navigate difficulty.
A child who struggles to self-regulate will never learn to behave appropriately when things don’t go their way. And while toddlers are expected to struggle with this, they eventually need to learn how not to act out but will never do so if things always go their way.
Children who never learn to selfregulate are going to face even more difficulty when they are of school-going age. They won’t know how to interact with people who have different personalities, points of view, or value systems.
Her advice to parents is, firstly, to let their children fall and make mistakes, but to use it as a teaching tool.
Mistakes help your children learn and grow. If you don’t make mistakes, how are you going to learn? Raising a resilient child goes hand in hand with discipline. An overly protected child is often undisciplined, as most protective parents are permissive and acquiescent, indulging their child’s strong will, and rarely, if ever, saying no.
While being a “yes parent” allows for peaceful resolution in the moment, it sets your child up for failure later on.
Overprotected children have not been taught behaviour management skills, and they struggle socially, especially once they get to the classroom. It’s wonderful to be a protective mother. In fact, it’s important. But the act of equipping your children is more valuable. Teach them. Guide them. Encourage them. A little independence and confidence can go a long way.
TEACH THEM CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Similarly, your child needs to learn how to resolve conflict appropriately, and it starts from a young age. Most toddlers first encounter conflict when they compete with a peer over a toy, for example. In these situations, parents and caregivers need to take a step back.
It’s wonderful to be a protective mother. In fact, it’s important. But the act of equipping your children is more valuable. Teach them. Guide them. Encourage them. A little bit of independence and confidence goes a long way.
TEACH THEM CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Similarly, your child needs to learn how to resolve conflict appropriately, and it starts from a young age. Most toddlers first learn about conflict through competing with a peer over a certain toy, for instance. In these situations, Natalie advises parents and caregivers to take a step back.
You want to give your child the opportunity to express and assert themselves. But if you’re doing it for them or on their behalf, how will they learn to do it on their own?
Whether your child is the victim or the perpetrator in the situation, most parents will feel obliged to intervene, but it’s important to recognise that there is a time and a place for parents to address the situation without interfering, assuming neither child involved in the conflict is being physically harmed.
Speak to your child, advise her, and comfort her after the moment of conflict.
Teach your child emotional language in these moments. Give their emotions a name – angry, sad, frustrated – and don’t think they’re too young to understand. This will help build their emotional intelligence and, consequently, their resilience.
IMPLEMENT POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Being sensitive to how you speak to your child and the type of input they get from you can also help build resilience: Why don’t you try that? Oh wow, you tried it. I saw you did that on your own, well done! What can you do differently next time?
Acknowledging your child’s efforts lets them know that they have your support and reinforces the appropriate coping mechanisms for the next time they tackle an obstacle. It teaches confidence. Positive reinforcement used frequently works wonders for children – especially when they start throwing temper tantrums. Furthermore, parents frequently fail to praise their children for doing what is expected of them while being quick to respond to negative behavior.
Acknowledging your child’s efforts lets them know that they have your support and reinforces the appropriate coping mechanisms for the next time they tackle an obstacle. It teaches confidence. Positive reinforcement used frequently works wonders for children – especially when they start throwing temper tantrums, adding that parents often forget to praise their little ones for doing what is asked of them but are quick to respond to negative behaviour.
Use language that has meaning. Instead of saying, ‘You’re such a good girl’ or ‘That’s very naughty’, say ‘Well done, you did such a good job at picking up your toys,’ or ‘I don’t like it when you throw your clothes on the floor.’ Be specific, and make links for them.
DEAL WITH YOUR OWN ANXIETIES
New mothers and fathers begin their parenting journey by first working on themselves. “We all let our own insecurities and baggage interfere with the way we parent, and we need to be mindful of that.
An anxious parent leads to an anxious child. So before you start thinking about how to parent a child, work on yourself. What is going on with you? What are your limitations, your strengths, your weaknesses? Do you have any triggers, sensitivities, soft spots? These will all influence the way you parent, and you need to be aware of this connection.
Your child senses your anxieties and insecurities. Don’t underestimate how much she knows. Children may not be able to express verbally that they know how you feel, but they can sense it – and they will react to it.
Both therapists agree that resilience is not an innate quality that a child is born with; it’s something they’re taught.
“They don’t come knowing it. It’s up to us to teach them. Arm your children with the courage and the coping skills necessary to deal with life. If you teach them to stay away from potential hardships or danger, you’re not teaching them to navigate the real world.