Friday, August 30, 2013

Believe in Your Kids

You are a parent.  You love your children.  You want to protect them.  And in many ways you absolutely should.  There are many things and people out there that are dangerous, that can and will hurt them, and that they are not equipped to handle themselves.  This is why you tell your kids not to talk to strangers.  This is why, when they are little, you don't let them wander the streets alone.

But one of the best gifts you can give to your children is the gift of believing in them and allow them to believe in themselves.  And this is where things get tricky.  There is such a thing as trying to protect your children too much.  There is such a thing as treating them like they are helpless little victims at the hands of the big bad wolf (some other person, or some difficult situation), and you have to do what you can to "fix" it for them all the time.

The problem is that when you treat your child like they are a helpless victim they will believe they are a helpless victim and likely carry it for the rest of their lives.  To treat your child in this way shows, as much as you love them, that you don't really believe in them.  You don't believe in their potential.  You don't believe in their ability to surmount obstacles, face themselves in the midst of the difficulties of life and grow and learn and get back up.  You show them that you believe their legs are too weak to handle life.  You coddle them, and in so doing you cripple them.

You might say, "That is ridiculous!  What an offensive thing to suggest!  Of course I believe in my child.  They are wonderful and I love them."  I'm certain that you do, but step back and consider the message sent your actions toward them.  Are you a helicopter parent, hovering worriedly and endlessly, looking to rescue them from any difficulty that comes their way, refusing to allow them to grow into their own potential and sense of self-respect and personal responsibility?  And do you excuse it as "just being a parent?"  Time to take a step back.  Maybe the issue is that you don't really believe in yourself, and you are projecting it onto them.

To believe in your child means to allow them to test their own limits and strengths and weaknesses for themselves in a situation that is realistically not impossible for them.  They will fail, and they will learn.  They will fall, but they will learn to get back up.  They will be rejected.  But they will grow.  It means you see and believe in their potential even when they do not, even when they are screaming for mommy to rescue them, and you allow them to face their fears and taste success for themselves.

See, when you overprotect them, not only are you conveying to them that you don't believe in a potential they cannot see, you are robbing them of their own success.  You are robbing them of the sense of accomplishment, the experience of their own flourishing potential, when there is a success they have worked hard to obtain, an obstacle they have worked hard to surmount.  You rob them of what it means to believe in themselves.

Protect them when it comes to situations that can put them into actual danger.  Help and protect them when it comes to situations that are truly far beyond their ability to handle.  But otherwise, as they get older be an advocate and partner with them, not a control freak.  Show them you believe in them by allowing them to taste life for themselves and find their own legs.

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