Parenting Skills: Teach them to Be Safe

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. Later, I read an article suggesting 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 giving kids the skills and confidence to avoid and extricate themselves from dangerous situations.

Good parenting skills includes not doing certain things for our kids that they can do for themselves.  For example, your three 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 themselves and gain self-confidence that they can do things themselves. This doesn’t mean never doing anything for your kids. However, you can evaluate which things you really should have your children do for themselves to teach them to be strong individuals.

Helping Kids Gain Confidence

I try to be aware of what parenting skills I’m using and what my son gains from them. Subsequently, when my son was nine, 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 so there wouldn’t be a problem with the clerk if he was short on money.  Because of this, he gained experience doing things by himself and gained confidence interacting with adults. 

Recently, he did the same thing and came back to the car proudly telling me he initiated an interaction with the clerk, saying, “How are you today?”.  The clerk responded kindly and felt more competent in his skills with adults. As a result, later on, he felt confident enough to ask a store clerk where a certain item was located. This was 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. If we make them afraid of strangers, they don’t learn to deal with strangers approaching them inappropriately.  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? Or will they freeze? Will they have the confidence to defy a stranger if they’ve had no experience talking to adults?

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 more ideas on parenting strategies, you may want to try parent counseling. See my website for more information.