One of the greatest accolades I always love to hear as a parent is when another parent compliments my children on their behavior when I’m not around. Regardless of how they sometimes drive me insane, especially having a teen and tween girl, it feels amazing to hear about good behavior, charitable acts, and other self-reliant undertakings that you know are helping them grow up to be well balanced individuals.
As my kids are getting older, I have learned a few things. I am certainly not perfect and it’s been difficult at times to hold back as these human beings begin to make decisions for themselves. But, here are a few things I’d share:
Breathe and Let Them Struggle – Watching anyone struggle can be difficult, especially when it’s your children. It doesn’t matter what age they are either. Sometimes, I’ve had to engage the “count to 10” principle to catch myself from solving the issue rather than letting them struggle. Whether they are learning to tie their shoes, wash the dishes, or doing housework.
Coach from the Sidelines – They will get stuck sometimes. It’s easy to take over and do it yourself. Resist that urge with all your might. Ask, “What do you think you should do next?” They may still have difficulties but be ready with words of encouragement letting them know it can be frustrating, but you believe in them, and that they can do it.
Break It Down – Feel free to give them parts of a task to complete if you think the total goal is too big. When my kids were very young, I had them folding socks while I folded shirts and pants. When unloading the dishwasher, they would stack plates on the counter and I would transfer to the cupboard. My eleven-year-old loves cleaning bathroom. My eight-year-old loves to dust. Make sure they feel success in their accomplishment and add to the task as they older.
Don’t’ Expect Perfection – When kids are young, be happy they are trying. My son used to put on his t-shirts inside and backwards. I praised him for it. He looked hilarious, but I praised him. A short time later, he realized his shirt “felt funny” and he figured it out. If he doesn’t dust correctly, I don’t sweat it. Furthermore, remember there is usually more than one way to complete a task. Kids are smart! And, as my daughters get older, they consistently teach me this.
Praise the Effort – The “result” is always great, but make sure to praise what it took to get there. It’s always nice to hear the end state is amazing, but saying things like, “I can’t believe you did all these things to accomplish this…I’m so proud of you” will make a child, young and old, feel like a million bucks.
These tips can be easier said than done. I practice constantly. And, the older my children get, it seems to get harder. But then, I’ll see them doing some task. I see them working through it until they complete it. Then, I witness their countenances change as they experience that “success” moment. That’s what keep me going. So, don’t give up if it seems difficult. They listen.
What are some things you do to raise a self-reliant child/teen? I would love to hear your ideas.