As a licensed Social Worker who has spent a number of years working with children and families, I have spoken with parents who were overcome with anxiety in regards to providing for their children and keeping their children safe. Being a Mom is stressful. We love our children and we want them the best for them. From the moment they are born, many of us are glued to the video monitor watching our baby’s every move in their crib and making sure they are still breathing. We try so hard to protect them from pain because we ourselves feel that maternal discomfort when we see our child upset. Being a loving, caring parent is important, but when do some Moms cross that line of being too protective that their child feels a sense of dependency as they grow?
Rescue Mom. Sometimes we need to allow our children to solve their own problems. When your child comes to you upset, it is so easy to try to fix the issue. ‘Mom, I lost my coat.’ Mommy instinct says that to go look for that coat because it was expensive and your child needs it for school. Sometimes you just have to freeze and let your child solve the problem to help them gain confidence that they can solve problems with out you. Show empathy that you care and are sorry they lost their coat, but instead of helping them look for it, help them problem solve. Ask them to retrace their steps and to go look. Wish them luck and leave it at that.
Love and Logic. The best gift we can give our child is the tools for them to be able to make the right decisions when you are not looking. One of my favorite book series is the ‘Love and Logic’ series by Charles and Jim Fay. There approach is to use empathy, love, and understanding while incorporating consequences for your child. Their approach, which does work because I have tried it myself on my daughter and my students, allows children to be able to develop that sense of personal responsibility and enhance their decision making skills.
Choices. Another aspect of ‘Love and Logic’ is to allow your child to have choices that you approve of. ‘Do you want to wear your blue coat or your pink one?’ ‘Do you want to have corn or peas as your vegetable?’ When children feel that they have a choice, they are more invested and feel a sense of accomplishment. They feel as if they made the decision, even though you gave two choices which were approved by you in the first place.
As I work with students in the college setting, I see that those whose parents have allowed them to make choices, make mistakes, and solve there own problems are the ones that are most successful.