My children have seen me shed tears over the years as I’ve grieved the loss of people I love. (Actually, they’ve seen me shed tears watching tv commercials.) They know moving home and hemispheres numerous times has tested my own resilience and that I’ve sometimes wrestled with disappointment, difficult decisions, and derailed plans. Sharing your struggles teaches a powerful lesson in personal responsibly. That is, we can’t always choose our circumstances, but we always get to choose our response to them.
5. Refuse to trade in excuses
Boys will be boys, teens will be teens, and kids will be kids. I know, I know, I know. But too often I see parents dismiss irresponsible, aggressive, thoughtless, and disrespectful behavior as ‘kids being kids’ and let their children off the hook from the consequences of their actions. Just because behaviour may fall within the norm doesn’t mean we should blindly tolerate it or fail to hold them to account for it. Your kids may still be kids but they are already on the path to being the adults they will one day become. Expect more from them than they may expect from themselves. Trading in excuses and letting them evade consequences does them, and everyone they’ll ever work or live with, a major disservice.
When my kids mess up or melt-down, I try to give them space or encouragement they need at the moment (until their ‘neural highjack’ has passed over). However, I also make sure they confront the fall out of their behavior and ask them to think about how they could have handled things better (if they’re unsure, I offer up a few suggestions!) Mistakes are wonderful opportunities for our kids to grow maturity and wisdom. Don’t spare them that opportunity by allowing them to brush them off because you’re too afraid (or proud) yourself of what that may entail.
6. Seize opportunities to teach self-reliance
During a parent/teacher meeting my daughter Maddy when she was in middle school, one of her teachers commented on how I expected a lot from her. I remember pondering on this afterward… was I expect too much? I decided that while I may have expected her to be responsible for managing a lot of things, I didn’t feel I was ever expecting more of her than she was capable of doing. And I certainly didn’t feel she was any worse off for how much I expected from her.
From tying an 8-year-olds shoelace, doing a year 8’s homework, to doing an 18-year-olds laundry, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen parents do things for their children that their children are clearly capable of doing for themselves. While there’s nothing inherently right or wrong about filling in your kid’s forms for them, tidying their room or making their lunch (or building their Pinewood Derby cars like so many dads did for their scouting sons while I was living in Virginia) when they’re old and capable enough to do it themselves, you can be depriving them of a valuable opportunity to develop life skills, the self-reliance and confidence that flows from it. Sure, you can do it better and faster than they can, but letting go of your own needs a little can help them to learn and gain skills and confidence they otherwise wouldn’t.
Fortunately, my daily working mother juggling act has spared me from ever being remotely guilty of helicopter parenting. I often have little idea what school projects my kids have to do, or when they’re due. However, I know that whatever marks they get, it’s all on them. More importantly, they know it too.
7. Hug hard and hug often (even when eyes roll!)
I’ve never heard of anyone spending years in therapy because their parents were too affectionate. Yet I’ve met and coached many adults whose deep fear of being unlovable has kept them from developing the intimate relationships, left them settling for destructive ones or driven them to try to prove their innate worthiness.
Children learn how to be emotionally playful and physically affectionate by experiencing it. Of course with three teenagers and one twelve-teen in our family, I’ve come to accept that my kids don’t always love hugging me as much as I love hugging them (despite how smelly my teen sons have become!) That said, whenever I get the chance, I wrap my arms around each of them and let them know how proud I am of them (even if not the state of their bedrooms, but that’s another topic!)
You teach your kids how to be courageous in love (and life) when you make them feel worthy of love, no matter what. Of all the gifts we can ever give to our kids, there is none more precious than that.
Margie Warrell is an internationally renowned speaker, bestselling author, and mother of four brave and noisy children. Check out her new book You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself at www.margiewarrell.com.