Good parents protect their children from traumatic experiences and those that are not fit for their age. But there can be too much of a good thing, and some parents, usually with the best intentions, take this too far and become overprotective.
They might try to shield their child from anything that causes discomfort or pain or worry, which can leave the child less prepared to face the world. Here are a few ideas to pursue when trying to find a good balance between safety and freedom for your kid.
Give them responsibilities
The first step is to give your kids responsibilities. They need to take ownership of something and face the consequences. Of course, their responsibilities should be according to their age and ability – a five-year-old is not meant to be cooking food for the whole family but might become responsible for picking up their toys.
When giving responsibilities, you should focus on something that the child can actually take ownership of without having to rely on adults to help or do it. It’s better to start with a small set of responsibilities and allow the child to experience the consequences as well. Allow them to get a bad grade on their homework if it’s their responsibility, and help them better manage the process next time.
Let them face failure
Failure hurts, there is no way around it. But it is also an important part of life, and learning to face one’s own mistakes and problems is a big part of growing up. As a parent, it can be tempting to try and shield the child from failure, but that’s not always the best idea.
A parent can offer the kid support and help them find a coping strategy to deal with it, but a parent should not go to extremes to prevent the child from failing or making a mistake, unless something truly serious is on the line.
Allow your kids to experience ups and downs
As a parent, you can provide support and should provide support for your kid, but still allow them the freedom to do things on their own. It’s fine if they make a poor choice or end up disappointed. You can point out the highs and lows and how they make up life as a whole, helping the kid develop a more constructive view of each situation.
Facing highs as a humble winner and lows with grace as well is important. A child should be able to experience both and see how they feel, while receiving guidance on their emotional reactions and ways to cope and manage.
Don’t always provide solutions
Sometimes, a solution is easiest, but just giving it is not always the best thing. Should you tell your kid a specific way of handling situations or give them everything ready-made? Often, the best thing you can do is to provide some clues and nudges in the right direction, and let the kid figure it out by themselves. This will help them learn to think for themselves and solve issues, gaining valuable skills that will help them in other aspects of their lives.
Don’t force them to solve every issue they face like this, but do offer more guidance and less direction when it involves personal issues that are right their size.
Give more and more freedom with each year
Kids today often lead highly regulated lives. This helps them stay safe, however, kids also need to learn how to manage autonomy. See what kind of autonomy you can provide and where it is appropriate – in some decisions the kids make every day, like choosing their clothes or foods, selecting their hobbies or interests, having more say in some choices that concern the household.
Little by little, offer them more autonomy with the responsibility it also has to let them learn how to manage their freedom and their decisions.
Take a step back
As a parent, it’s up to you to allow your kids more freedom. They might ask for it or not, but you need to be ready to give it. Allow yourself the space to take a step back and let your child make a choice or take control. They might mess it up – that’s an incredibly valuable experience, and there are times when you should just let it happen.