Mothering Vs. Smothering: Part 3 of 3
Children learn by experience, and not all experiences are good or fun. If your child is in actual, physical danger or if he is unable to stand up for himself by all means step in and prevent your child for eminent harm. If, however, your child is experiencing a problem with getting his way, you may be doing him a big favor by letting him work things out himself.
For example, no small child likes it when things get grabbed out of his hands. If your child has had a toy snatched from him . . .wait . . . encourage him to handle the situation (perhaps with your assistance in finding the right words), and your child will learn self-reliance and valuable social skills. Otherwise he learns dependence. To be clear, this isn’t about throwing your child into the proverbial lions den; rather, assisting him—in whatever way is age appropriate—to figure out how to be effective in the situation.
When a parent steps in to resolve unfavorable situations for a child, that child will learn only that things should always go his way, and that when things aren’t working out right its cause for a tantrum. This applies to shopping with mom as much as it applies to playground battles over a favored toy.
Overprotective parenting can extend to protecting your child’s feelings. For some parents this means giving in to the every whim of your child. Your life may revolve around your children in many ways, but it should never actually be run by them. While it is not reasonable to expect perfect behavior from your kids, you should also not allow their displeasure to change your course of action, whether that action is a decision not to make a purchase or the current dinner plans. On a deeper psychological level you child needs and craves the security of knowing that you are in charge, not himself.
Getting your child used to the idea that not everything will go his way in life is setting the stage for a secure and well balanced individual later in life. He’ll learn to accept disappointment as an opportunity for growth, rather than a signal that he should give up or wait for someone to come to rescue him from the consequences of his own actions. Backing off just a little can allow your little one to build a whole new world of experiences, almost all of which will affect him positively in the future.
We may think that protecting our children from every germ, scrape, bump, and failing grade will help them to get ahead in life, but it really just isn’t so. They will never cultivate the ever-important trait of self-reliance. If you want a child who will eventually be sure of himself no matter where he ends up, consider letting him handle some situations on his own.
The Sages state, “How precious is man for he was created in the image of God.” The God-given gift of free will bestowed upon all human beings, however, is secondary to the Divine gift of awareness. As the Talmud says, “A greater sign of our preciousness to God is that He told us we were created in the image of God.”
God, being non-physical, does not have a form, so what do we mean when we speak of man being created in the image of God? It means that human beings have the freedom to forge their own reality. In that way we resemble God, Who is completely free and independent.
As we’ve said in previous columns, as long as we believe that the quality of our lives is a result of circumstances, rather than a result of our own proactive choices and response to situations, we remain powerless. All positive change begins with some version of, “I am responsible and nothing in my life will change for the better unless I change.”
Give your child the gift of independence. Because the ultimate job of a parent is to teach his child to walk, and then teach him to walk away . . . without holding on.
Copyright © 2010 by D. Lieberman