There is a fine line between being a caring parent and being a “helicopter” parent. When it comes to your child’s success, most adults tend to unknowingly protect their own egos by wanting the job done right, or sparing young people the possible negative feelings associated with perceived failures. In the short term this seems good, but long term, it derails the whole process of learning and accomplishment based on self-reflection and self-improvement.
In your head you may be screaming “they are doing it all wrong”, or “don’t do it that way!” Put your judgments away and do your job, which is to simply notice, and pay attention to everything. Be there for their support, if they ask you for it.
We recently observed a group of parents and their children to see how they interacted during different tasks. For one of the tasks, the children were asked to paint a picture of their choice. The parents were asked to sit next to their children as they painted and to observe them. That was the entire task. There were no secret instructions for the parents or the children to follow. They were simply asked to observe their child paint a picture of their choice.
Some children painted a house, a flower, a sky with grass under it, or a combination of all these things and more. They were painting things the way they saw them, the way they thought things should be, or just plain having fun with paint and using their imaginations.
Interestingly enough, as the children progressed in their work, most of the parents stopped observing, and instead started telling their children how to paint the picture. Some parents told their children that the color they chose for the sky was incorrect, because “no one paints a purple sky”. Some told their children that their child should not paint the house in the picture a bright green because no one wants a bright green house. Other parents even told their children to start over because they got sloppy and their paint was dripping.
Not all the parents acted this way though. There were a few that sat back and watched, then looked at their phones and basically ignored their children. They seemed not to be interested in the least as to what was happening.
Then there were parents that watched, asked questions like “what are you painting”, or “what color are you going on making the flowers” and encouraged their children without making any sort of suggestions.
Once the task was done, we asked the teachers privately to point out which students seemed to be the more emotionally mature and self-sufficient, as well as which students required more help and more attention on a regular basis.
The results we got were eye opening to say the least. The students whose parents asked a lot of questions about their children’s drawings, encouraged their child, and basically showed an interest in what they were doing without telling them how things should be done were pointed out by their teachers as the ones who display much more classroom maturity.
The students whose parents stared at their phones instead of being engaged with their children during the task were considered by their teachers to be less emotionally mature and less self-sufficient than the first group.
But the students whose parents did not let their children figure things out on their own and paint their own picture had the most trouble with other students, showed the least emotional stability, and had difficulty with problem solving skills. These students also displayed a massive lack of self-assurance and constantly looked for the approval of others.
One of the most important goals as a parent is to raise children who become stable, independent adults. Children rely on their parents for many things as they mature such as security and safety, through food and shelter.
As children grow, they naturally need to rely on parents less and less. As they become teens and mature into young adults, the need for their independence rises as well as their need to be self-reliant.
The problem we see with a lot of parents is they tend to believe that the process of moving from child to teen, and then from teen to adult, is a natural process that takes place no matter what they do. Allowing space for teens to figure things out, for failure and success, is an important tool for adulthood. Chronological age happens naturally, emotional maturity is a result of hard work invested the child.
Luckily, Adventure Catholic offers parent retreats, and ongoing training for parents who desire to raise successful self-reliant adults. Get our book “Teaching Teens to Fail: A 5-Step Field Guide for Parenting Success” today and start learning our COPEC training system today. Then get in touch with us and sign up for an in person training experience. We are able to come to your parish and speak to all the parents at one time. Just ask us for more information.