Parents, don’t take this personally, but it’s probably time to think about becoming redundant, writes Jen Vuk.
In his latest parenting book Spoonfed Generation*, Michael Grose, a leading Australian parenting expert, argues that parents do way too much for their children and the result is that kids are growing up less resilient and more dependent.
“Before driving their kids to school each morning, most parents wake up their children and make their breakfast and lunch, before reminding them to get dressed and brush their teeth,” he writes.
As the mother of two young sons, I admit that some of this (okay, most of this) sounded way too familiar. How many mornings have I done one or all of the above just to get us out the door? (The answer? Too many times.)
But when kids are also presenting with anxiety disorders in unprecedented numbers, the devastating reality of such over-parenting really hits home.
Not that Grose is interested in pointing the finger. Aside from admitting to having committed quite a few of those parenting ‘sins’ himself, he has no intention of guilting parents into changing their ways.
As he writes: “While terms such as ‘helicopter parents’ and ‘bubble-wrapping kids’ are now commonplace, they are unhelpful and offer little direction for parents.”
Instead, he offers his suggestions for developing a child’s independence and achieving “the most important parenting outcome of all—their own redundancy”.
It’s important to teach kids how to ‘bounce forward’—to grow and develop through adversity. This is something they learn directly from their parents and it starts with empathy and developing a language around resilience. Kids need to know that “things will get better. They always do.”
“Kids don’t live in a bubble. Their behaviour generally has a social impact,” writes Grose. “It helps to be mindful of the relationship between rights, rules and responsibilities.”
A good rule of thumb is to use behavioural consequences to promote accountability and reward responsible behaviour with greater freedom.
Our role as parents is to move our kids from “me to we”, writes Grose. His tips? Modelling the types of behaviour we want our children to adopt, repeating phrases that reflect the family’s values (Grose says his family’s is “This too will pass”) and teaching manners.
There’s a fine line between self-confident and bratty, and a parent’s role is to navigate that line and also to be aware that a child’s self-confidence will ebb and flow as they get older.
Grose believes that the best way to impact a child’s self-confidence is to choose encouragement over praise. “Encouragement is a far more powerful esteem-building tool…and it doesn’t have the adverse side effects,” such as instilling in children the need for constant validation.
While true emotional intelligence can take a lifetime to build up, it starts in childhood, and for parents it’s about breaking it down into its five components: recognising emotions, labelling feelings, understanding what causes a feeling, expressing that feeling, and regulating their moods.
“Parents can help children build their emotional smarts by making emotional recognition a feature of a normal family life. This includes focusing on emotion (for example, anger) rather than behaviour when kids are upset.”
*Published by Bantam Australia, RRP $34.99