Most parents spend a fair amount of time wondering if their parenting skills are the right ones. I tend to be a protective parent, trying to make sure I keep my young son out of harm’s way and protect him from harmful people. However, when he went to a week long summer camp this month, I had some anxiety about whether he was safe or not. Fortunately, everything worked out well, but when I came across an article pointing out that parents should focus on teaching children to be strong rather than trying to protect them from bad things, it got my attention.
We can’t be there 24/7 to protect our children from every bad thing that can happen to them. And even if we could, it would be bad for them because they wouldn’t learn how to protect themselves. What we should strive for is teaching our kids to have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to avoid dangerous situations and extricate themselves from negative situations they find themselves in.
Part of developing good parenting skills includes not doing certain things for our kids that they can do for themselves. For example, your three or four year old might take 15 minutes to dress themselves and it would only take you three minutes. However, it’s generally better to let them figure it out so they gain mastery and some self-confidence that they can do this task. This doesn’t mean never doing anything for our kids, but we can evaluate which things we really should have our children do for themselves to teach them personal efficacy and to teach them to be strong individuals.
I try to be aware of what parenting skills I’m using and what my son gains from my attempts to parent effectively. So when my son was younger I would do things like send him inside the gas station to buy snacks while I pumped the gas. I made sure he had enough money that there wouldn’t be a negative interaction with the clerk if he was short on money. My son gained experience doing things all by himself, speaking to a new adult, and gained self confidence talking to others. More recently, he did the same thing and came back to the car proudly telling me he initiated the conversation with the clerk by asking him, “How are you today?”. He received a positive reaction from the clerk, and felt more competent in his communication skills with adults. Later on, he felt confident enough in a store to go find a clerk to ask where a certain item was located in the store; something I probably wouldn’t have been confident to do at his age.
As we parent our children, we often tell our kids not to talk to strangers, but if this makes them afraid of talking to strangers, they may not know what to do when a stranger approaches them for an inappropriate purpose. What if the stranger is coercing them to do something unsafe? Will they have enough comfort and confidence to say no and get themselves out of the situation?
For more information about parenting strategies, there are some great resources. One of my favorites is Love and Logic which you can find here. If you’d like to get face to face instruction on parenting strategies for your unique situation, you may want to try parent counseling. See my website for more information.