13 years ago I was expecting my first child. It had taken us a while to get pregnant with our first as I had undiagnosed health problems, so we were delighted with the news. We did everything that most first-time parents did, buying equipment as well as baby-proofing everything because that is what good parents do, right?
Our bouncing baby girl arrived and I was a very focused and dedicated parent. Monitoring every aspect of her life and making sure that her every need was attended to. Life went on and we continued to extend the family with 3 more children, all boys. As my family grew in size and age, I began to observe and learn about what was helping them to grow and what was stopping them from growing.
As time went on, I realised that the better and more efficient mother I became, the more often I disadvantaged my children. In an attempt to make sure that my children were happy, healthy, comfortable and safe I was actually preventing them from experiencing all aspects of life. I was undermining their confidence and I was denying them the tools they needed to thrive. Let me explain.
I wanted my children to spend their childhood happy, playing, chasing butterflies and bubbles, I still want that. However, I also want my children to be well-equipped for the world that will greet them when they emerge from under my wing. When my daughter was about 9 years old, I struggled to get her out of the door for school in the mornings. It was a constant, stressful battle, especially when I was expecting number four. It was intense. She was more than capable but just would not up-her-game. Then I realised something, I was making her life so easy that she never had to take responsibility or face any consequences. When she forgot her jumper, I delivered it (half an hour round-trip). When she forgot her homework I helped her to avoid detention by delivering it to her. When she refused to do her hair, I made us all late by ensuring it was done so that others would not make fun of her. When she forgot her lunch, I delivered it to make sure that she didn’t go hungry. Jackets, field-trip slips, payments and the list goes on.
What was I really afraid of? My daughter’s discomfort? Yes, of course! I would kill for her and I would die for her. However, I became aware of something else going on too, I was afraid of being judged a ‘bad’ mother. This was not just about her, this was about me too. Once I realised this and contemplated how I was denying my guys these valuable life lessons where they could learn and grow, things changed. My daughter went hungry, she had a detention, she got cold and I’ll tell you something else, she only did it once! My boys coming up in the ranks learned fast too, actions have consequences.
Similarly with housework, by feeling guilty about asking them to help with daily tasks, I realised that I was not teaching them how to look after themselves. The chore chart was born. It worked well for a while but then fell flat and arguments began. What am I good at? Positive-Parenting. What am I bad at? Dishing out consequences! Now if your set task is not fully completed, without being asked then you face consequences. (Electronic-confiscation etc.) It is working like a charm. I told them that when they get a job in the real world they have to complete the tasks they have agreed to or else they will not receive their pay. Relating it to the real world in this way seemed to hit a nerve with them and made sense. Things are running a lot more smoothly, and they are learning and preparing to run a home of their own one day. That’s my job, to prepare them for life.
Another thing that I was doing mistakenly out of pure love was to jump in and defend them far too quickly. I then took a huge step back. When incidents happen at school, by jumping in too quickly (which at times is completely appropriate depending on the severity of the event) you are silently communicating to your child, “I do not believe that you are equipped to handle this situation so I will have to do it for you.” Wow, what a crazy shoot down to the self-esteem and self-reliance. I now take a deep breath and say, “Ok, so what are your options here?” Sometimes they will react by saying that they don’t know, to which I reply, “Yes you do. You are a strong and intelligent young person and you are perfectly capable of solving this yourself, so what are you going to do?” 90% of the time they fix it themselves (with discussion) and go out into the world better prepared for next time.
It’s also an interesting perspective when asking them what their part in the situation was and if they have to own any part of the problem and how this could be improved. The other 10% of the time I will have to be their backup and help them to close the issue. If this happens, I explain how my husband and I do this for each other as adults and that everybody needs support at one time or another and that there is certainly no shame in it.
The result has been that I have resilient and strong, level-headed kids who can stand on their own two feet. By getting out of the habit of baby proofing every aspect of their lives, I have given them the gift of experience and wisdom. This is something that cannot be taught, it has to be lived.
Helping your child to get world-ready:
- Allow them to take responsibility for their actions.
- Allow them to face consequences.
- Give them responsibilities to help them to grow.
- Resist jumping in too soon to resolve their conflicts/challenges, allow them to develop their own toolbox of tried and tested responses.
- Always care for your child and keep them out of danger, but don’t stop them from experiencing life. Better they face challenges while they are with you for support and guidance than go out in the world unprepared and vulnerable.
- Tell your children their skills, strengths and gifts often. Show them that you believe in them and they will believe in themselves.
- Support and guide, but let them find their own answers if possible. This is a vital skill for navigating the world.
- Have faith in your child. You have raised a good one! Trust that you are preparing them for life and let them live it!
Author: Cathy Domoney, Positive Thinking Children’s Author
Cathy holds a Diploma in Counselling, Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy. With a BA Hons in Sociology & History along with a Certificate in Life Coaching, she offers the complete package that is destined to make changes in the lives of children through her books. When teaching she helped pupils & colleagues with self-esteem issues. Cathy knows how positive-thinking can impact on a child’s experience of the world & passionately shares this knowledge with parents & teachers.
Madeleine, Maddy & Midge – Positive Thinking for Children
Madeleine has two secret friends, Maddy and Midge. Maddy’s happy messages make Madeleine feel tall, strong and full of confidence. Midge however, fills Madeleine with worries, troubles and doubt and makes her feel small, scared and alone. Madeleine has found the magic spell so that Maddy’s voice will be all she will hear and Midge will disappear like the ‘Pop’ of a bubble. Madeleine has the power to decide whether to be happy or sad. The question is, what will she decide? Madeleine, Maddy & Midge contains a powerful message of self-esteem and confidence for children. It is more than just a story book, it is a literary friend. Complete with parent and teacher activities Madeleine, Maddy & Midge is a valuable resource tool.
Get Cathy’s book here.