Keeping our children’s paths obstacle free is something very tempting but totally unhelpful. Even when we believe we are helping our children by removing hurdles in their paths, we are not. Our children need to learn to face obstacles and by doing that, they learn how to deal with complications and figure out solutions. We should help them along their paths with advice into how to deal with such obstacles, figure out together possible solutions and strategies to overcome such obstacles. That is the best way to help them.
Allow our children to make their own decisions, we can guide them, but ultimately it must be their decision and they should learn to stick to it and follow through, or realize it was not the best decision and change it – but not before they have tried to follow through.
Our children need to encounter failure, frustration and lost opportunities. How they learn to deal with these is what will give them an edge in life. Parents shielding their children from those challenging life events only make them lack the skills to deal with such events when they finally encounter them in their adult lives.
Our children need to experience life for themselves, and that includes difficulty in reaching a goal, taking risks to reach a goal with its possible failures and disappointment along the way. They do benefit from our support, but not from us clearing their way so they don’t have to encounter any major frustration or deception.
In what ways do we clear the way for them? When we make a project or homework for them, not with them when they need our help; when we help them get excused from a hard test when they were not ready to present it; when we discuss a bad grade with their teacher instead of guiding our child to do so by him/herself; when we demand our child gets a trophy even when he lost; when we plan playdates for them even when they are old enough to make such plans by themselves; when we monitor every minute of their lives which we can do through technology. This, instead of enabling them to cope for themselves makes them too reliant on us. With these actions we are disabling them from the tools – values and coping skills - they need for life.
Our job as parents is to support our children, to use our experience and knowledge to prepare them, focusing more on values, problem solving and coping skills than in grades, trophies and diplomas. The latter can happen naturally when they have learned to include their values and use their coping skills as they face adversity and challenges in their paths. After all, this is what life is about and it is fun!