When you love your child so much you could burst, isn’t it easy to fall into the trap of doing everything for them? After all, when we tidy up after them, cook, iron and spoil them at any opportunity, it’s a sign of love right?
You may even know of a parent that somewhat mollycoddles their child, maybe a ‘helicopter’ parent that is always hovering by their child’s side cautiously guiding them around a play park to ensure they won’t fall – you may even relate to this parenting style yourself.
Let me tell you why it’s worth considering how all these behaviours (all a result of love of course!) might actually be having a detrimental effect.
When a child isn’t given the opportunity to do something for themselves or is ‘trained’ to depend on a parent’s loving help, a sense of helplessness can be created. It’s possible that the child will develop a belief that they can’t do certain things independently as a result.
For example, if a parent is always getting a child’s uniform and PE kit ready for them before school, over time that child is likely to put little effort into doing this for themselves. If it’s something ‘mum does’ they could perceive it to be something they wouldn’t do well themselves.
This of course isn’t true, they could absolutely learn do it themselves, it’s just that the parent hasn’t given the child the opportunity to do so. Complacency and laziness in children can unwittingly be the result of over indulgent parents. Arguably more worrying is the lack of confidence that a child can develop around certain skills as a result of not being exposed to doing something for themselves.
I’ll never forget at university (at the age of 19) asking a very good friend of mine if he could make me a cuppa. When I walked past him in the kitchen to see he’d plonked the tea bag inside the kettle I was in disbelief. How could he not have known, at that age, how to make a cup of tea?? The answer; in his whole life he’d never been shown how! Needless to say, this was an embarrassing moment for this guy (as much as we laughed about it) and I have no doubt he would have felt ‘helpless’ in that situation and that it will have knocked his self-esteem.
In a 1970 British Cohort study (measuring Locus of Control), thousands of British adults were followed from birth. At the age of 10 they were essentially assessed for how ‘powerful’ or ‘powerless’ they felt. They were revisited at the age of 30 to see what was going on in their lives. Interestingly, those who felt more powerful at the age of 10 were, at 30, less likely to be overweight and also appeared to have higher levels of self-esteem.
What we can conclude from this is that teaching our children how to feel powerful at a young age is incredibly important. When we (at any age) feel powerful, we feel in control, we are calmer and -predictably – are unlikely to create anxiety or stress as a result.
A great way to encourage this ‘Sense of Power’ in our children is to allow them to learn for themselves. Expose them to as many new skills as possible and help them process the progress they are making. Get them involved with the washing up, the cooking, mowing the lawn…any new task. At the very least ask them to help you with a task rather than doing it for them (resist that perfectionist urge to take over, believing that you’d do a better job).
Since completing The Thrive Programme myself, I often ask my 6 and 4 year old girls “What’s the latest thing you can do on your own?” and they’ll reply with comments like “I can butter my own toast mummy” or “I can walk into class on my own”. With every new skill they learn I know that they are increasing their own sense of power and growing their self-belief. This approach has resulted in my two being eager to try new things, accepting they might not get things right first time but still be praised for trying.
So, when your child gets a puncture when out on their bike, wouldn’t it be great if rather than feeling helpless and dependant on a parent to fix it, that instead they feel empowered and able to fix it themselves?
Many of our clients are amazed at what they get out of The Thrive Programme from a parenting point of view. Here is a quote from Amy who completed the programme earlier this year:
“Since completing The Thrive Programme, not only have I been impressed by the improvements in myself, but my kids (13 and 15yrs.) are benefiting hugely from my new skillset. I’ve been able to empower them more than ever, including helping my daughter to deal powerfully with a recent fallout at school. I feel much more confident in my parenting style, now knowing the most helpful and effective way to approach and respond to things when it comes to the kids, as well as life in general of course. The programme is the best investment I have ever made.”
There is no doubt that becoming a thriving parent ourselves presents the greatest opportunity for our children. Please contact me if you’d like to learn this unique and valuable skillset.
Written by Thrive Programme Coach® Anna Mosley