With the role of parent comes the inclination to fix things. When our babies cry, we look for a solution with a warm bottle or a dry diaper. As our kids grow and start to become more independent, we sometimes hold on to the idea of “fixing” everything, of stepping in and protecting them from any discomfort life might serve our children.
But fixing everything for our kids can actually be harmful, and too much coddling can rob children of the joy of personal accomplishment and developing their own work ethic.
Here are a few ways to avoid coddling your children into a dysfunctional adult life, but still remain an involved parent.
Assign chores. Some families like to add a dollar amount to completed chores as a way to teach about economics and real-world earnings, and this is perfectly fine. But you might want to consider having some chores that offer no monetary compensation after a job well done. These chores should involve personal responsibility, like putting away their own laundry or clearing their own spot from the dinner table. Let your kids know that you will not do everything for them—not now, and not when they are grown.
Allow failure. This is perhaps the toughest thing for a parent to do, but it’s important that kids do not always succeed—or that when they do, it is because of their own hard work. It’s okay to step in and help with difficult homework or to help practice for a sport, but do not step in and try to make it easier for your child. When they fail at something, make it teachable moment and encourage them to try again. Remind them that failure only occurs when you give up, and sometimes reaching a goal takes several attempts.
Foster independence. Find safe ways for your kids to exercise some of their own freedom. When your child is a toddler or in lower elementary school, consider sending them to structured classes where parents are not present. As they get a little older, let them walk ahead of you on the way home from school or go to an overnight camp. Find ways for your kids to make their own choices without you looking over their shoulders. If they make a bad choice, you’ll be there to talk them through it and help them learn from it.
Set limits. Implement a bed time. Put a time limit on electronic time. Ban phones and tablets from the dinner table. Talk about behavior expectations when your kids are at school or friends’ houses. Let your kids know what you expect of them and give them a chance to make you proud.
What are some tips you have for building confidence in your kids?