When we do things for our children that they can do for themselves, we rob them of an opportunity to build self-esteem. Conversely, as we ask kids to help around the house and make reasonable contributions to the family, they gain confidence; those confidence-building experiences then help to prepare them for success in adulthood.
Seems simple enough, but what about situations where our kids face negative consequences – especially because of their own choices? Allowing our kids to experience the natural, negative consequences can be hard for parents. In particular, many mothers find it hard not to rush in and rescue their kids.
When the situation involves our own expectations, the key is to communicate very clearly the behavior or results that are expected and are considered “acceptable.” Important, also, is to clearly communicate the consequences if those behaviors or results are not achieved.
Next comes the most challenging part for many parents: allow the child to suffer the natural consequences of their choices/behaviors.
Instead of talking incessantly to them about what they’ve done or rescuing them and giving them an “out,” allow them to suffer the natural consequences. Don’t skip over that very important word “suffer.” Yes, it’s hard to see our kids hurting sometimes, but it’s in the middle of those struggles that they gain tremendous growth – growth that is needed for adulthood.
If you enable them or rescue them, you rob them of valuable opportunities to gain skills they’ll need later in life. Never forget that enabling is more often about the enabler (you) than it is the one who is enabled (your kids). However, it’s damaging to both parties.
When, for example, your children miss their curfew and then realize they’ll have to stay in that weekend and miss out on a big social event, the most effective response I’ve found is this: “Bummer!”
“Bummer” allows them to feel the weight of their consequences and communicates clearly and efficiently that you will not rescue them; instead, you’ll give them the “gift” of learning from their poor choices or mistakes. And that is a very valuable gift – one for which they’ll thank you some day in the future.
- Alicia Economos, founder & director of “Wholehearted Living Ministries”