Parenting Mistakes We Make
Published 02 July 2020 at 19:35
"He is so slow at doing things, if I don’t help him or keep pushing him, the work will NEVER get done."
Remember when they were tiny tots and were struggling to wear their clothes or tie their shoelaces? When we parents are not in a rush, it is a delight to watch them master a thing that is so simple for us that we don’t even give a conscious thought. The same adorable act becomes a bit of an irritant when we are in a rush to get things done by a certain time so that it can fit into our schedule. From getting ready for school in the morning to writing a statement of purpose for college applications, when we run out of patience and time, we parents get frustrated and end up doing it for them. We tell ourselves we are helping them, but we are doing much more than that. When we do things for them unintentionally, we are sending silent signals to them:
- I can’t trust you to do this without me intervening;
- If you don’t do it, don’t bother, the work will get done eventually by someone somehow;
- Making sure things are done on time are not your responsibility, they are mine.
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Let us just pause for a minute. Ask yourself: When I decide to “help” my child without them asking for it, what is driving me to do that?
This is one of the questions that always comes up when I am coaching parents who want to raise a self-driven and motivated child. More often than not, the narratives that run in the mind of a parent are the same – fear that if they don’t help out, the child will never do it. She will be left behind in school. She will not get into a good university or job and eventually in life. She will end up being stuck in a negative place from which she will never be able to come out.
Our reactions and behaviours based on these internal dialogues pilot us to nag and coax our kids. In the long run, it makes them either rebellious and aggressive or quiet and passive-aggressive. When this negative mind mapping becomes our parenting road map, it becomes our biggest mistake as a parent.
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What can we do instead?
When parenting from a place of fear and anxiety, our children mirror our emotions. Our premotor cortex is the seat of Mirror Neurons. These neurons "mirror" the behaviour of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. In the case of kids, when they see anxiety, fear, frustration in their parents or caregivers, they tend to mirror it in themselves. We are all aware that while positive stress motivates us to do more, negative stress takes away all motivation from us.
The best thing we can do as parents is to practice, non-anxious parenting. Coined by Edwin Friedman, this is the rule of thumb of good parenting. When we look at things from a place of calm, we can look at it from different angles and guide our children accordingly.
A tranquil mind would remember, learning is usually a steep curve. It starts slow, but with repetition becomes easy. If they are doing it slowly, let them take time. If it is time-bound, instead of rushing to help them last-minute, start motivating them early on and monitoring their progress as time passes.
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Do you remember their struggle with tying shoelaces? Instead of tying it for them, you taught them the way to do it. After a few times, it started coming easily to them. It is the same thing with everything. Instead of doing it for them, give them the skill, encouragement, and time. They will eventually get it.
To a peaceful mind, it also becomes easier to discern between our responsibilities and what should they be held responsible and accountable for. Giving guidance and nurturing environment is our responsibility. But things like getting ready on time for school is theirs. Just as much as writing application essays for college. We must refrain from taking everything in our own hands. Prompting them to continuously put in their best efforts and monitoring their progress regularly usually are enough. This encourages them to reach out if they need help.
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To end this article, I would like to say, children naturally identify with the goals and values of the parents who care for them deeply and unconditionally. Instead of trying to make our kids motivated by instilling fear of the future, we can use our knowledge and experiences to build competence in them. Carol Dweck says in her book Mindset: "Competence is about feeling that we can handle a situation than it is about being really great at something." To raise self-driven children who feel confident to take on the challenges life throws at them, we as parents need to move from a place of fear to a place of non-anxious presence.
By Shalini Bindal
About the Author:
Shalini Bindal is a Professional Coach certified by International Coach Federation (ICF). She focuses her coaching efforts on Teens, Parents and Women. Her one-on-one Cut-the-Clutter programme is designed to change the child’s thinking from negative to positive. Before becoming a Coach, she was a Human Resources professional and Corporate Facilitator. A mother of two teenagers, Shalini has lived in India, Belgium and now in Hong Kong. Email her for a 30-minute free in-person or virtual session email@example.com.