Parenting Less

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Parenting Less

Topic |  
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psyche-thumbStage parents. You get a lot of them nowadays. They are those who are intimately involved in the lives of their children. If possible, they plan every move and direct every step that their child makes. They provide every possible opportunity and give just about anything with the intention of molding them for success.

In school, you see them sending their child, even staying in the classroom if permitted, or staying around waiting for her little angel to come out.  They also help their child make his homework or volunteer in the classroom, and do other stuff just to make the child’s experience as perfect as possible.

Of course these parents have noble intentions. But they unknowingly create a life where they shield their children from precious experiences that provide them better opportunities to thrive in the real world. As a matter of fact, getting overinvolved in our child’s life, specifically in education has been overrated according to research. What we think as helpful behaviors turn out to be not having any correlation whatsoever to children’s achievement.

Take for instance helping children with their homework. Research shows that it never has had a positive correlation with children’s test scores and rarely with their grades.

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But don’t get me wrong. We parents need to be parents. But our primary role is not to control every aspect of our child’s life. But rather, we set the stage and let the child perform on his or her own.

We may think that the more parenting we do, the better our kids will be. Because this is how other areas of our lives work. For instance, the more an athlete practices, the better he becomes. The more a student studies, the better grades he has.

But this is not true to parenting. In the cases above, the effort of the individual improves himself. But parents do not improve themselves; they are attempting to improve another. And when parents get overly involved, they are depriving their children to develop their sense of selves, negotiating with others, resilience, and other coping mechanisms on their own.

So, what can parents do? Instead of doing everything for their children, they can model behaviour for their children to follow. They can create narratives that set the stage for appropriate behaviors to develop.

For instance, the research of Robinson and Harris indicate that students benefit from parents that value education. In the home, these parents create narratives such as “Education is the only real treasure I can leave you” or “Study hard and you will succeed.”

In other words, parents need not do everything for their children; fight every battle, help every assignment, or settle every conflict. This may give the message that the child needs to be helped or saved always.

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Children learn more if they themselves get intricately involved. They learn to be determined or resilient through their own struggle. They learn how to stand up again from failure if they actually fail and overcome the failure. These are very necessary characteristics for children to have when they become adults.

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And so, it is okay for kids to labor with their assignments on their own, or quarrel with their friends sometimes, or choose their own adventures even if it’s a little bit risky. As long as parents continue to mirror appropriate responses to these challenges and create the narratives of resilience and confidence in their very own behaviors, these children can develop healthily.

There is no need to micromanage. If a stable environment where children feel safe and valued is in place, this will provide a solid emotional base for future learning. And a child who feels safe will be more willing to take risks that foster growth.  At least that is what Robinson and Harris found out from their investigation. (By Kit Nemenzo Balane)

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