How to be a “Lazy” Parent
Published 21 March 2019 at 15:01
As they say, children don’t come up with instruction manuals. And what that means is we parents end up spending energy on musing, ‘Am I doing enough?’ This thought becomes even more accentuated when both the parents are working. In the process of getting rid of the guilt, we end up doing more for the child that is required. This, in the process, becomes counterproductive, and the child ends up being labelled by the society as an overprotected spoiled brat. And again, the parents take the brunt. So, after spending energy on worrying about not becoming a good parent, we end up being judged as so. Where to go … what to do?!
In this article, I am going to write about two areas, which in my experience as a parent and coach, we the parents fret most about. These areas are also the most fertile situations to help children practice and hone their “executive functioning” skills. Once the kids get these skills right, we the parents can relax and be the “lazy parent”.
Anxiety over Uncertainty:
Anxiety is a feeling of not knowing what to expect next. If there is one thing that’s sure about life, that it is uncertain. Usually, the way tweens and teens react to the uncertainty and to overcome this overwhelming feeling of anxiety is, by using avoidance tactics.
Some of the kinds of excuses kids come up with when they are anxious:
- I don’t think I should go for badminton try-outs. I am already doing too many activities.
- I won’t be going back to the Debate club. Others are much better than me. I don’t want to be the reason for my team to lose.
- I have a test tomorrow. I feel blank and I feel I don’t know anything.
As a parent, it bothers us when children come up with such excuses. We all know very well that these are ways to get out of the activity. We end up reacting by giving them long lectures on why they should do it and what all they can do to feel better. If we ourselves are in a bad mood, we shout and yell at them. All this leads to loss of time and energy and spoiling the relationship with the child. And even after all that, it does not work.
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Instead, be a lazy parent:
Let the child grapple with the problem for some time. Usually when in grip of anxiety, children tend to look at it from only one angle. Be their sounding board and let them express themselves fully. Instead of giving the solution, ask them questions about the situations so that they can see it from different angles. Give them examples from the past when they had a similar feeling but were courageous enough to go ahead with it. Remind them how they felt when they overcame the fear. Making them write down what is the worst thing that can happen and what the probability of it actually happening makes it easier for them to see in black and white how one-sided their views are.
Do this with them a few times and eventually, they will start doing it themselves. This way, you are teaching them not to give up easily and imbibing Impulse control. You are teaching them to look at a problem from different angles encouraging Flexible thinking. You are teaching them to learn from the past to make their future better. And that is exactly what we want. You must remember, you will not always be there for them.
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Schools and schedules:
The digital age we are living in has been called the knowledge economy. Academics and good education are a passport to good teachers, good schools, good universities, good career and eventually, good life. So, it’s natural for the parents to go to any lengths so the kids can do well.
Here are some ways parents I have coached have been “rescuing” their child:
- I pack her bag each night as per her timetable so that she does not forget anything. Poor kids they have so much to do these days, these are some small ways in which I can help.
- The science teacher this year is quite disorganised if you ask me. He did not tell students properly what the syllabus was for the upcoming Test. I had to email him to find out.
- With laptops and books, the bags are so heavy these days. So, whenever he has soccer practice, I take his soccer shoes with me and drop them off at school. You see it’s not much of a bother for me but saves his energy.
Besides helping the child in the above-mentioned situations, I have come across parents who micromanage their child’s projects and assignments, not just in primary school but all the way into high school. Parents are available for their child at the touch of a button (thanks to smartphones and instant messaging). This, however, leaves no room for the child to solve a problem himself.
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Instead, be a lazy parent:
Yes, they have work, they are hard pressed for time and, all these make them very tired. Doing it for them will make their lives easier but at what cost?
Most of us work with an assumption that kids either will take too long to do it or they won’t do it. There is another possibility that we mostly forget all about: that they do not know how to do it and that it’s our responsibility to teach them that.
These are all great opportunities to teach them three essential skills in executive functioning. Planning, Initiating and Organising. The starting point is to ask them what their goal in the task at hand is (Planning) and what they should start with (Initiating). After that help them to create an action plan and then a way to keep a track of the progress of their plan (Organising).
Once they get a hang of it, it’s a skill developed for life.
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In a bid to be a good parent, be aware that you don’t end up doing things for the child. Instead, support and guide your child in problem-solving. It is a slower process, but it helps in your child learning to problem solve, plan and tolerate the discomfort that comes from not feeling sure of the resolution. It is essential in the development of the child. Be a lazy parent. Be there for the child. To guide them. But let the child do the thinking and the actions.
Are there any areas of parenting you would like to be "lazy" about? We would love to hear from you. Write down in the comment box or reach out to email@example.com.
By Shalini Bindal
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About the Author:
Shalini Bindal is an ICF-trained, Certified Professional Coach. She does personal and group coaching for Career Moms and Teens. Before becoming a Life Coach, she was an HR Professional and Corporate trainer. She also trains tweens and teens on Soft Skills including: Public Speaking Skills, Assertive Communication Skills, Social Skills. A mother of 2 teenagers, Shalini has lived in India, Belgium and now Hong Kong. Email her for a free 45-minute session (in-person or virtual) at firstname.lastname@example.org