How to parent in one short Op-Ed!
August 15, 2012 Leave a comment
Great Op-Ed in the Times a couple weeks ago that boils down lots of parenting research from recent years into a few key points. Here’s the heart of it:
Their research confirms what I’ve seen in more than 25 years of clinical work, treating children in Marin County, an affluent suburb of San Francisco. The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.
The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality. If you treat your walking toddler as if she can’t walk, you diminish her confidence and distort reality. Ditto nightly “reviews” of homework, repetitive phone calls to “just check if you’re O.K.” and “editing” (read: writing) your child’s college application essay.
Once your child is capable of doing something, congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on. Continued, unnecessary intervention makes your child feel bad about himself (if he’s young) or angry at you (if he’s a teenager).
And here’s probably my favorite parenting quote ever:
So many parents have said to me, “I can’t stand to see my child unhappy.” If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you are in the wrong business.
No, I don’t like to see my kids unhappy, but I realize it’s necessary. Some context:
The small challenges that start in infancy (the first whimper that doesn’t bring you running) present the opportunity for “successful failures,” that is, failures your child can live with and grow from. To rush in too quickly, to shield them, to deprive them of those challenges is to deprive them of the tools they will need to handle the inevitable, difficult, challenging and sometimes devastating demands of life.
Anyway, really interesting essay. Truth is, I’ve been increasingly coming to the realization that Kim and I still do too much for the kids that they can do for themselves. We’re working on it (and they don’t like it!)