How Parents Can Instill Confidence
Parent Quiz. Your 5th-grade daughter forgot her homework. She texts and asks you to bring it to school. Which of these responses would you choose?
1. You leave work on your lunch break and bring her homework to school.
2. You text her back and say you’ll bring it after school.
3. You text her back and say you’re sorry, but she’ll have to suffer the consequences and turn it in late.
4. You text her back and say you’re sorry, and then ask if she has thought of a way to solve the problem.
As a prior elementary school teacher, I predict most of you chose number 1 or 2.
Number 1 and 2 are rescuing behaviors. Your response in low stakes situations like these speaks volumes about your belief in your child to find their own solutions. Kids are sense-making machines; they will read into every choice you make.
I understand parents want their children to feel successful and happy. And yet, sometimes actions lead to the exact opposite of the intent.
Here’s the deal. When parents rescue their child there are unintended consequences, one of which can be low self-esteem.
…kids with rescuing parents develop low self-esteem and are completely dependent on their parents. Remember, if you go to solve a problem for your child the implied message you are sending them is that they are incompetent and cannot handle anything on their own. This is a devastating message that well-meaning parents are sending their children every day. ~Dr. Andrew J. Dobo, Psy.D. Are You Rescuing Parent?
As a mom, I understand the urge to help because it’s hard to watch children struggle. But as a teacher, I saw the consequences when parents didn’t allow their children enough opportunities to solve their own challenges. I remember children who were unprepared to accept responsibility, had little tolerance for failure and lacked confidence.
Below are a few examples of challenges in which children are better off handling on their own.
* lunch, homework, or permission slip left at home
* project or research paper procrastinated to the last minute
* sibling or friend disagreements
* personality conflicts with coaches, teachers, or other adults
Although, when it comes to bullying or more serious boundary crossings involving power, parents should always intervene. Other than these exceptions, children can and should find their way to solutions.
I’m reminded of how a butterfly is unable to survive if it’s helped out of the cocoon. The reality is there will come a day when a child will face life’s challenges without a parent’s support. If he has not flexed his problem-solving muscles, he may not be able to fly.
No doubt there are exceptions to every rule. However as a practice, a child should be given space in which to learn and grow through her own experiences.
Parents can help by providing empathetic support as well as asking questions to guide thinking.
Here are a few responses to provide support in an empathetic, empowering way without rescuing.
* “You sound frustrated. What do you think you could do to fix this problem?”
* Wow. I can see why you’re sad. Do you plan to talk to your friend about how you feel?
* I’m sorry you forgot your homework. Would you like some strategies on how to better remember next time?
Showing trust in your child’s ability to resolve everyday challenges builds a critical foundation of confidence and self-esteem that will last a lifetime. It may be uncomfortable, but it is worth the investment.
What are some other ways parents can support without fixing? Are there success stories you could share here?