5 parenting behaviours that can actually hold your kids back
Looking to raise the next Richard Branson or Beyoncé? Here are five parenting behaviours that can hold back our kids, according to leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore – bestselling author of more than 25 books and founder and president of Growing Leaders, an organisation that focuses on helping young people develop their leadership skills.
Parenting behaviour #1: Not letting your children experience risk
This can be a tricky one for us parents – keeping our babies safe is ingrained from before they are even born, which is generally a good thing! The problems come when we are reluctant to let go and let them learn hard lessons for themselves – falling off the swing hurts and while it’s not good for a young baby (which is why they have the ultra-protective swing seats), for a three year old, being able to jump on the swing solo and run the risk of falling off is necessary in order to let them learn and grow.
As Dr Elmore explains, taking risks teaches kids to make informed choices about behaviour when they are older. By not letting them take age appropriate risks now, there’s a good chance they won’t know how to determine good risks from bad when they are older, or they’ll lack the confidence in themselves to even try. Allowing your kids to take some risks also shows them you believe in their ability to not only make choices, but recover when they fall.
So how do you get the balance right?
Obviously pushing your newborn in the pool is taking things too far, but how do you know when it’s OK to let them climb to the top of the playground, walk to school alone or skateboard down a hill? The trick is to look around and let them take risks that are age appropriate – calling the climbing frame out of bounds when they are learning to walk is not coddling them, but doing so when all their friends are approaching expert level on them probably is.
Also, factor in their nature – my eldest son is far more cautious than my younger son, so I am much more willing (encouraging even) of him taking risks because he inherently ‘looks before he leaps’.
Parenting behaviour #2: Rescuing them too quickly
Dr Elmore says when we rescue too quickly and over-indulge our children with assistance, we remove the need for them to navigate hardships and solve problems on their own. This can be anything from ‘helping’ them with their homework (i.e. doing the bulk of their project for them), zipping up their jackets, taking over their cooking experiment or negotiating an argument with their friends for them.
The biggest outcome of this perfectly understandable behaviour, according to Dr Elmore, is you disable them.
He explains doing things for them is ‘parenting for the short-term’ and it sorely misses the point of leadership – to equip our young people to do it without help. On his blog post on the topic, Dr Elmore explains just as muscles atrophy inside of a cast due to disuse, your kids social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual muscles can shrink if and when they’re not exercised.
The balance? Give them a chance to sort things out and don’t be afraid to let them struggle through – and if they ask for help, give guided help rather than taking over so they’ll be better equipped for next time.
Parenting behaviour #3: High fiving too easily
Rather than boosting your child’s self-esteem, being too quick with meaningless praise can mean kids eventually observe Mum and Dad are the only ones who think they’re awesome because no one else seems to be dishing it out as much.
“They begin to doubt the objectivity of their parents – it feels good in the moment, but it’s not connected to reality,” says Dr Elmore. It may also have the effect of making your kids constantly seek praise and rewards for their actions, making them more focused on outcomes than enjoying the ride (great at school, unsatisfying for life!) and even ultimately, they may become people-pleasers – needing to hear how good their work/behaviour/self is.
Praise is still a good thing, but the way to find balance is to go for quality over quantity – make it sincere and genuine and focus on the effort not the outcome. If you follow these guidelines, experts say you can feel free to give it as often as your child does something that warrants it.
Parenting behaviour #4: Letting guilt get in the way of leading well
This is the one where you let your kids stay up later than you want, or you renege on a punishment because of the tears, or perhaps throw in a big chunk of cash towards a purchase they’ve saved for and miscalculated the amount just because they cry (if the last one sounds a little too detailed, I’m not saying I haven’t done it!)
Sometimes we do it for a peaceful life, but other times we do it because we are afraid they won’t like us or love us. Unfortunately, what it actually does is removes important lessons – actions have consequences, whining is a good way to get what you want (or emotional blackmail) and in the case of the last example, sometimes you have to fight and work to get what is really important to you.
In the words of Dr Elmore: “They’ll get over a no, but they may struggle to get over getting their own way all the time.”
Parenting behaviour #5: We don’t practice what we preach
This is the classic parenting fail: my personal go-to move is yelling at the kids not to yell at each other.
This parenting behaviour doesn’t only affect future ‘ruling the world’ changes either – it gets more sinister when it comes to behaviours like binge drinking. At the end of the day, the expression ‘monkey see, monkey do’ is apt – research categorically shows that children are far more influenced by how and what they see you do than they are by what you tell them.
So if you are constantly banging your head against the wall about a behaviour that isn’t changing in your home despite constant requests, it may be time to look at the adult behaviour in the house.
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This article was written by Melanie Hearse for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz