By: Heather O’Neill
When you first become a parent, you get an animalistic intense desire to protect your child. You want to make sure that nothing ever hurts them – emotionally, physically, spiritually.
You keep them safe – baby-proofing your home, securely fastening them into the car seat, zipping up their jackets to stay warm, holding their hands in every parking lot, purchasing the best bike helmet you can find, giving the death stare to the kid on the bus that made them cry, sticking needles in the doll …. Oh wait…
Our jobs as parents is to do whatever necessary to keep them safe.
But what does this mean as they get older?
If we remove every obstacle, every bump in the road, every stumbling block, how will they ever learn to be resilient, to be strong, to persist when they want to give up? If we never let anything happen to them, nothing ever will. What kind of adult will they become?
From failure, we learn. Think back to one of the worst mistakes you ever made. You know, the one that still gives you that sinking feeling in your stomach because you continue to relive the consequences over and over in your mind. Have you ever made that same mistake? Probably – but not to the extent you did the first time. We remember that feeling and do everything in our power not to let that happen again. My kids may read this someday, so I’m not going to share mine with you.
The same is true for our kids. We need to let them have their own experiences. Their own failures. Their own successes. To know the feeling of failure, to hopefully not duplicate it. And to know true success – on their own…… even if it’s not the way you would have (or did) do it.
Our babies grow up…… even if we don’t want them to …..
And they need to be able to make it without us ….. even if we don’t want them to…
Here are 10 small things you can do to help foster a strong sense of self in your kids:
- Have them check in themselves to the doctor/dentist office. They don’t have to give a complete medical history, but they can give their name.
- Make them responsible for their sports equipment/uniforms. Maybe not laundering it, but they should know where their stuff is (at all times) and where all the parts to their uniforms are……. This is the same for dance/gymnastics/tae kwon do, etc.
- Teach them how to make eye contact with adults and shake hands the correct way …. This is a skill that they will need if they ever want to succeed, at anything.
- Are you ordering pizza for the family? Skip the convenience of online ordering and have your middle or high schooler call and place an order over the phone. A novel idea, I know. But what a great way to reinforce social skills and the importance of communicating effectively …. And they don’t ever have to make eye contact with anyone!
- Encourage them to greet people and be gracious. They should be able to say hello to people as they come into your home, or they go into theirs as well as thank those around them who are in their lives – coaches, teachers, grandparents, mail carriers, store clerks, restaurant servers.
- Middle and High School students should be able to communicate with their teachers. This should progress as they get older. But they should be able to have a conversation – whether it’s verbally or electronically – with their teachers. Some older students prefer the perceived anonymity and convenience of email – and that’s ok, as long as it’s respectful and considerate.
- That being said – Teach them how to write an email, with correct grammar, punctuation, a subject line, some sort of greeting (Dear….) and a signature (Sincerely …. )
- Also teach them how to write an actual letter/thank you note, address an envelope and actually write their names in a true signature ….. Yes, cursive writing that is not taught in schools any longer.
- Let them fail. Yes, our kids need to learn what failure is – so they know how to deal with it and move on with their lives. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Not making a sports team (even if they desperately want to be on the team)
- Not getting a part in the play/show/dance team, etc. they wanted
- Missing a few homework assignments
- Failing a quiz
- Failing a test
- Forgetting their homework/trumpet/lunch/chromebook/hockey stick/tap shoes, etc. at home and not bringing it to them (this one pains me, and I would … and have …. brought some of these things to my middle schooler, however he knows that if he forgets something again, it’s not coming to him … life will go on)
- Say no. Yup – something we say to them often when they are toddlers and less often as they get older. In the real world they need to understand the meaning of this word that will often be said to them – whether they like it or not.
No one ever said parenting was easy. When you’re feeling like you’re failing remember, you’re not raising your kid to be a kid, you’re raising them to be an adult. Hopefully a happy, successful, polite, kind, caring, person who has their own place to live and not in your basement, adult.
Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.