Let's explore the reasons why parents become overly involved in their children's lives. The reasons are varied. Parents may be overly protective, keeping their children from experiencing failure, wanting to be in control of everything, feel anxious or may be overcompensating for something else. Whatever the reason is, we are producing a generation of children who do not have the coping skills to face failure because their parents are always hovering around them and completing their tasks. Some of us also find it difficult to draw the line between having a healthy relationship and being a control freak!
Of course given the kind of media exposure that today's children have, it is natural for a parent to be concerned about the safety of their child. But instead of equipping them with coping skills to deal with the many challenges, we are making them dependent on us for everything. Achievement and success seem to be more important than the efforts to get there. Children then grow up with a low self-esteem, poor problem-solving skills and lack the ability to face disappointment and failure.
How then can we stop overparenting and become instead an engaged parent allowing our children the space for growth? If you are a helicopter parent, here are some ways to disengage and stop hovering!
Give your children responsibility
Depending on the age of your child, delegate certain responsibilities to them. Children as young as 5 can dress themselves, be mom's little helper by putting away their toys or helping to sort the clothes. Older children can definitely be recruited to lay the table, help out in the kitchen, iron their clothes and pitch in on other household chores. Ensure that you do not micro manage the tasks even if it does not come up to your standards. This will help your child gain confidence to handle tasks around the house and make him more independent.
Give them space
There will be times when it is going to be difficult to watch your child struggling with conflicts with friends or being frustrated with a challenging project at school. It is of course instinctive as a parent to jump in and find solutions for her. But do force yourself to step back and allow her to deal with it. Be there for her with your support but resist the urge to give her solutions. Don't be afraid to let them fail or stumble for it is in failing that children learn important life lessons and coping skills. In the pursuit of success and happiness, we often underplay the importance of failure and are guilty of not teaching children to be resilient.
Allow them to face the consequences of their actions
If your child has delayed giving in his school assignment or project because he has been goofing off then resist the impulse to call his teacher with explanations to ensure that he does not lose marks. Don't sit up all night completing his project either! Let him explain to his teacher and if he is reprimanded or if this affects his grades, so be it. Allow him to be accountable for his actions. After all when he is an adult you are not going to be able to shield him from sticky situations at the workplace.
Teach them problem solving skills
Remember the old proverb that says "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". When your child comes to you with a problem or challenging situation try not to give him instant solutions. Instead, ask him open ended questions like "What do you think you can do to manage your time better?", "Why do you think you failed this test?" etc. Help them to articulate their fears and their feelings and empower them to think for themselves. This will let them know that you trust them to come up with their own solutions and that you respect their ability to do so.
Don't project your desires onto your child
Very often we impose our desires on our children or even worse, make them pursue our own unfulfilled dreams as far as academics or choosing a career path is concerned. We force them to take up subjects that they do not really have an aptitude for and later on mourn the fact that they have not lived up to our expectations. Teach them to value and appreciate their own strengths and take personal responsibility for their decisions. Don't decide on their behalf about the choice of a career path. Instead, help them make informed choices by exposing them to the opportunities available.
So if you would like your children to navigate their way to a successful life, stop hovering over them. Instead be an engaged parent by giving them an opportunity to grow, become self-reliant, resilient and confident, and of course allow them to fall and pick themselves up! Be there to offer them love and a warm hug, cheer them from the sidelines but don't run the race for them!