Parenting is akin to walking on a tight-rope – maintaining the savvy act of being in control without being overly controlling. After all, we want our kids to become autonomous and independent human beings. Enough studies have shown the negative effects of the so-called helicopter and snowplow parenting – the type who wants to control their kids lives in the mistaken belief they are helping them.
Over-protective, hoovering, and indulgent parents raise a generation who lacks the confidence and skills to tackle life’s challenges. In addition, their entitlement makes them devoid of empathy and lacking normal social skills of reciprocity.
Children need rules, boundaries, and sometimes tough love. They have to know that the world does not begin and end with them.
Children learn and become resilient when they are allowed to explore, make their own choices good and bad, and learn from their mistakes. Experiencing the ups and downs but knowing that their parents have their back is what really builds that deep sense of self-worth and confidence.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it is with well-adjusted children. Every moment is a lesson that will help them up the slippery slope to adulthood.
As parents, we need to face the undeniable reality that we will not be around forever to protect them against harm or clear every obstacle they will face in life.
It begins with Safety and Security
Secure attachment is vital for optimal right-brain, particularly during the 0-2 year period. Dependable and consistent caregivers instill feelings of safety and security. A child needs to know that there is someone in control who he can look to for guidance and support.
Sadly, most parents overlook this crucial time where they earn their child’s trust and respect Without this solid base of consistent bond-building there is going to be mistrust and insecurity.
How will your child feel confident when they doubt their parents’ love. Why will your child trust your advice when you have proved to be unreliable?
Accept that Children have their own Individuality and Limitations
Every child is different with their own unique personalities, preferences, and passions.
As a parent, I was guilty initially, of wanting my son to more athletic. But alas, he suffered from dyspraxia which made him a klutz on the soccer field. Initially, it did feel disappointing, after all, notwithstanding our knowledge of child development we all want super successful kids who are the envy of other parents.
Oh, must confess, I was not that enlightened then. However, remembering my own childhood with my demanding father and watching this great movie on a dyslexic child changed my thinking.
Understand your child – his needs, likes, and dislikes. Help him overcome his limitations. ( I went to work for an alternative school that had special facilities for kids with learning disabilities. This was life-changing for my son).
Always encourage and support the skills he has. This will help them build on their latent talent that will help find his calling in life. Interested in music arrange for music lessons.
But don’t try to force your child to do something he hates. Expose him to varied things and experiences. Be there to guide but don’t pressure, give them the freedom to choose. Or else, by the time they are teens you will have to deal with their unbridled rebellion. Every day will be a battle.
Most parents don’t understand how their subtle and sometimes overt controlling behavior destroys the parent-child relationship.
Boundaries, Rules, and Discipline
By the time children are 2-years-old, they are testing boundaries and asserting their will. Here is where most parents’ mess up. Either they go overboard trying to reign in their first steps towards self-differentiation and autonomy or they just let the kids have it their way – giving in to their tantrums. Worse they indulge in bribery to get their kids to even do their homework.
The end result is a kid who does not know who he is without mom and dad telling him what to do. On the other end, a super-entitled narcissist lacking basic human consideration.
Children need to know that there is someone in the driver’s seat. That someone is there to give meaning and direction to their existence. So don’t feel bad when you have to instill boundaries and rules of what is expected and allowed.
Parenting is not a popularity contest. In the initial years, you may have to be strict, your child needs to know that their parents are watching. That becomes your child’s inner locus of control – the values by which they live their lives.
Great Parenting is about giving Choices and Chances
Autonomy starts with allowing kids to make their own choices. Starting with small things – like do they want to eat beans today or tomorrow. Never say ‘you have to eat beans.’
The belief that they have control rather than their parent is a dictator goes a long way in making them amenable to your suggestions.
And never berate them and go on a ranting spree when their choices lead to failures. Constantly reminding them of the time they did not take your advice and landed in a mess will only reinforce the negative program in their brain – that they are failures.
Kids may need many chances to get things right. Be there to support and motivate them.
Being in Control in an Unstable World
During these times of confusion and chaos, having an adult who is seemingly in control of the situation is vital for a child’s mental health. I know how hard it is when one has to deal with job loss and housing problems.
During those times when I struggled as a single mother with a small kid, it took all my inner strength to stay upbeat. Even when I was afraid, unsure of how I would get through I’d keep on my supermom cloak.
Being in control particularly when children are young is critical. A small child’s brain is not yet developed to deal with instability. They lack the critical skills for analyzing the reality of a situation since their prefrontal cortex is still undeveloped. Any adverse situation is internalized, leading to a lifetime of mental issues – anxiety, depression, codependency, etc.
Children don’t need perfect parents, they need good enough parents who are there for them.
Moreover, instilling the belief that they can do whatever they set out to do, without overtly controlling things is one important parenting trick.
The mystic poet Kahlil Gibran perfectly elucidates the role of parents:
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Our job as parents is to be caring, consistent, and being in control. That’s the foundation on which their future success and happiness are built on.