Parenting...whose energy and for what purpose?

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I was at the park with my three year old granddaughter this past weekend. As I was watching the parents running, fetching, pushing, I was reminded of some advice I received from a very wise woman when I had young children. She said, “If you are expending more energy than your children, something is wrong.”

Do you find yourself expending more energy than your tween/teen when it comes to…

  • Organizing homework assignments and projects?
  • Planning summer enrichment activities?
  • Getting ready for the prom?
  • Shopping for their clothing and school supplies?
  • Researching colleges for admissions purposes?

If you are nodding yes, something is wrong. Certainly you are well-intentioned, but instead of creating space for your tweens and teens to become their best selves, you are robbing them of opportunities to develop self-efficacy and resilience.

Our rational brain knows this is true, but why is it so hard for us to live out in reality? Lythcott-Haims, in her book How to Raise an Adult, claims, “American parents seem to have equated ‘good’ or ‘successful’ parenting with ensuring our kids never experience even minor, short-term pain.” (p. 26)

As parents, it pains us to see our kids get disappointed, hurt, or even fail. But all the developmental research shows that children need to experience failure to build resilience. We have to resist the urge to “do for”, take over, or rescue.

What is driving your parenting decisions? Love or fear or both?  Ask yourselves these two questions:

  • What have you done to curb/control your own anxiety so that it doesn’t override good parenting and sound decision-making?
  • What does loving your child well really look like?

If these questions intrigue you, I have a couple of suggestions:

  • Listen to Lythcott-Haims’ TED talk or read her book.
  • Become friends with parents who have demonstrated how to be present in their teens’ lives while also backing off.

Know that these parents are few and far between. You will be swimming upstream if you choose to parent differently. How will you gather the courage to do so?  What will help you stay on track, and, if you go off-track, what will help you recognize that you have veered off course so that you can get back on track?

Respond to these questions by writing a note to your future self.  Put that note in envelope, seal it, and then hand it over to friend with instructions to give it back to you in six months time.

Best wishes for the journey!

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About Author

Page Cvelich

College/Teen Program Manager

Page Cvelich has brought a wealth of knowledge to the Work/Life Center from prior experience as a high school guidance counselor and parent education coordinator. Page has been responsible for setting up a high school college and career center, designing a career exploration program for teens and serving as a counselor at a backpacking camp in the Rockies. In her role as Teen/College Program Manager, Page enjoys interacting with small groups of parents and teens, as well as consulting one-on-one with parents and referring them to resources so that they are better able to provide the support and encouragement their kids need.

2 Comments

  1. Brandy Mann

    Amen. We just signed up our oldest (7) for a Taekwondo tournament this weekend. Part of why I decided was because he needs a shot of humility to become a better person. Right now he works really hard but it's all on his individual merit. This weekend he will compete and either he will rise to the occasion and use what he has learned or he will try and fail. Failing is key. I teach 2nd graders once a week with this mantra from their school "First Attempt In Learning". Failing is how you get better. I have to remind myself this when I let the 4 yr old pour his own cereal. The mess is worth it, right?

    • Page Cvelich

      Yes, it is worth it, Brandy. 🙂 Making mistakes and learning from experience while under the roof of a loving home environment with a parent who has a growth-mindset is the best situation for a child. You go, mom!

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