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.

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