|Letting Kids Struggle|
|Posted on September 19, 2012|
I just learned a new technique from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. I asked my 5 year-old what happens when she runs down the hall in school (which my daughter does with me, but not when the teacher is there). She said, “Well, we have to start over, Mom.” As a parenting coach I am always looking for little tricks to help kids self-regulate and become more mindful of their behavior.
I’ve started to employ this concept in the home. So when my daughter whines, I say, “Start over sweetie.” The problem is that as parents we get hooked into the whine. We want to give them their snack so they stop whining or we get mad at them for whining. Children are allowed to make mistakes and whine when they feel impatient, but we can also ask them to repair the mistake.
“American children, especially those who grow up in relative comfort, are being shielded from failure as never before,” says Paul Tough author of How Children Succeed. Culturally we are very concerned with kid’s academic success and their happiness, but we aren’t too worried about how well they deal with adversity. In fact most kids today melt-down when things don’t go their way. And although most parents get annoyed by these episodes, we often play right into them by rescuing and fixing for our children. When children are shielded from discomforts and failure they never have the opportunity to develop the skills necessary for navigating the ups and downs of life.
New research in Mr. Tough’s book indicates that children’s intelligence does not guarantee success. In fact non-cognitive skills or – as I prefer to call them – internal resources are more critical to children’s development and long-term success.
Internal resources such as delayed gratification, problem solving, distress tolerance, internal motivation, and emotional regulation are developed by asking kids to use these skills. We need to ask kids to problem solve everyday challenges like sibling conflicts, chores, or feelings of frustration. Kids need to apply their intelligence to living their lives, not just in academics. As parents we can value emotional regulation, distress tolerance and internal motivation as much as a good report card or scoring a goal.
The thing is……we don’t have to wait for our children to fail in school, be bullied or experience another type of struggle outside the home; we can allow them to have safe struggle in the home. Ideas like “starting over,” can be applied to behavioral problems in the home to hold children accountable. We can let them feel disappointed. We can hear when they don’t like a rule. We can validate that chores are annoying. But we don’t have to change anything to make them happy. Remember the more kids struggle with small things like redoing a homework assignment or working on respectful communication, the more equipped they will be to deal with bigger struggles in their lives.
We can shift our parenting from “I’ll fix it” to “You’ve got this.”
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