Tag Archive for confidence

Let Them Take A Risk

I hadn’t noticed until someone mentioned it. We were at a playground and there were no teeter-totters. My kids would not learn the thrill of teetering at the high end of the teeter-totter before plummeting back to the ground at a speed slightly quicker than imagined.  There were also no merry-go-rounds, the ones you can get spinning so fast that the centrifugal force threatens to pull you right off the ride. I used to love the feeling of having to hold on for dear life and surviving before bursting into hysterical laughter! No, none of that in this playground. Instead, we stood on a large, soft rubber mat surrounded by mulch. The rides included enclosed stairs and “castle peaks, short slides, and balancing beams two inches off the ground. Don’t get me wrong. This was an amazing playground and my children loved it. Their favorite ride, though, was the spinning tire swing. My children loved to get on that swing beg me to spin them so fast their hair would fly straight back. Some parents wouldn’t allowed their children to ride at the fast spin, directed them to the slides and the castles. But my girls loved the thrill of holding on as the force of spinning pulled them outward. I just liked watching their hair fly back as they spun.

This memory came to mind as I read a review of the literature on play and anxiety published in Evolutionary Psychology. This review suggested that “risky play,” like the playground rides described above, help to prevent long-term anxiety. The article notes that we have become a society in which anxiety is epidemic and the overprotection of children may contribute to that increase in anxiety. Risky play, play in which we go right to the edge of safety, may help prevent anxiety. It helps us become more aware of our environment and our personal limitations. The more we know about our surroundings and the more comfortable we become with exploring new things, the less anxiety will hold us back. The more we know about our personal limitations, the more we practice healthy caution rather than anxious avoidance. But risky play does more than increase our awareness. It also represents a form of “exposure therapy,” an opportunity to face our anxiety in a healthy, appropriate manner and overcome the fears that threaten to imprison us. For instance, climbing trees teaches us to interpret the feelings associated with greater heights as information rather than simple anxiety that holds us back  and “keeps us on the ground.” We can make wise decisions based on our experienced-based knowledge of the environment (strong vs. weak branches) and our own ability. This comfort with heights translates from trees to bridges to rooftops to airplanes. We learn to think wisely about our actions and related fears rather than succumbing to irrational anxieties. 

So, what kind of risky play can help your children avoid anxiety? Here are six categories identified in the literature review.

  1. Exploring heights by doing things like climbing trees, jumping, balancing or swinging.
  2. Exploring speed as we speed along on our bikes, skates, sliding, etc.
  3. Learning about dangerous tools by using knives, ropes, or tractors for various activities.
  4. Rough-and-tumble play, like wrestling, play fighting, or sword fighting with sticks, helps us learn to negotiate physical interactions with others.
  5. Exploring “dangerous elements” like deep water, icy water, fire, or rock climbing.
  6. “Getting lost” and exploring our communities and world.

Of course, we don’t want our children to go crazy. We still need to teach our children the difference between risky behavior and hazardous behavior. However, when the opportunity arises, let your children engage in some risky play. Let them poke the fire. Let them climb the tree. Encourage them to do some rock climbing, wood chopping, vegetable cutting, and swimming in the deep end. Let them explore. You may be preventing the rise of anxiety and opening the door for them to live a more joyous life.

What Can Puzzles Teach Us About Self-Critical Children & Their Parents?

What can puzzles teach us about self-critical children and their parents? I must admit…that’s not a question I ever asked myself.  However, researchers at the National University of Singapore did and boy am I glad. They followed 263 children for 5 years starting at 7-years-old. In the first year, the children were given puzzles to solve in a limited period of time. Their parents accompanied them and were told they could help if needed. The researchers’ objective was to watch whether the parent became intrusive and, if they did, how intrusive.  An example of highly intrusive parenting would involve a parent taking the puzzle away from the child to reverse a mistake they had made. The researchers wanted to know whether the parent interfered with their child’s problem-solving opportunities or allowed their child to learn from mistakes. This puzzle assessment was repeated when the children were 8-, 9-, and 11-years-old.  The researchers also tested the children for levels of self-criticalness and perfectionism. Guess what the research uncovered. You got it. Children who had highly intrusive parents engaged in more self-critical behavior and perfectionism. The children in this study who reported increased levels of self-critical behavior and perfectionism also reported more symptoms of depression and anxiety as the study progressed. Consider the progression suggested by this study. Parents intrude upon their children’s activities by interfering with their children’s independent problem-solving. This conveys an implicit message from parent to child that “you can’t solve your own problems; I have to step in to do it for you.” As a result, children never feel “good enough.” Although they feel inadequate, they also recognize their parents’ desire for perfection. As a result, even the smallest mistake leads the child to criticize themselves for not being “perfect,” for not “meeting standards.”  This, in turn, increases the risk for depression and anxiety. I like the quote from the lead researcher: “Our findings indicate that in a society that emphasizes academic excellence…parents may set unrealistically high expectations on their children. As a result, a sizable segment of children may become fearful of making mistakes. Also, because they are supposed to be ‘perfect,’ they can become disinclined to admit failures and inadequacies and seek help when needed, further exacerbating their risk for emotional problems.”

So, what’s a parent to do? Here are 3 ideas.

  1. Focus on your children’s efforts rather than the end results. Acknowledge your children’s efforts rather than comparing their results with someone else’s results. Effort produces success over time. So, focus on effort and nurture an excitement to try new things without fear of failure (which brings us to tip number 2).
  2. Create an environment in which mistakes and temporary failures are opportunities for learning. Ask what your children learned rather than the final grade they earned. When they do poorly on a test or project, discuss what they did well before moving to discuss how to correct the areas in which they did poorly. Discuss what they learned from their mistakes and “flops.” In other words, turn failures, poor performances, and mistakes into opportunities to learn rather than opportunities to evaluate and blame. (Do Your Child a Favor: Love Mistakes)
  3. Let your children struggle to find their own solution. Do not step in to “fix it” or “solve it” for them. Let them work at it. Let them pursue options they think of independently. You can ask some questions to spark their imaginative solutions, but don’t just them the solution. Rather than fix what they did wrong, ask they how they might fix it. When they get stuck, discuss possible ideas and the basis for those ideas. Nurture their ability to think and pursue solutions independently. (Read Do You Rob Your Teen of Victory? to learn more.)

Put these three practices in place and you will help raise children who pursue excellence without becoming self-critical and perfectionistic. And we learn all this because someone asked what puzzles can teach us about self-critical children and their parents!

A Contract with My Preschooler?

Want to increase your preschooler’s attention span, ability to plan, and self-confidence? Here is an idea borrowed from “Tools of the Mind”.  Let me describe what the teacher does in a preschool where this idea is utilized. The teacher helps children plan their play before they begin their play. They actually discuss what the children want to do and let them “write down” the order of activities they want to engage in. The “written” order of activities may not have actual written words. It may consist of pictures or what appears like scribbles.  Nonetheless, it represents the child’s plan, a symbolic contract.

Children then begin engaging in their activity. As you have likely experienced, they often lose focus part way through the activity and begin to drift to another activity. At that point, the teacher brings the children’s “written contract” out and asks them if they finished what they had planned to do.  Often, the children look at the paper and remember their “plan.”  “Oh yeah. I have to finish….”  A simple reminder and they return to the initial activity and continue with “the plan.”  After the activity, the teacher goes over the “plan” with the children again. They acknowledge the children’s accomplishment. This allows the children to enjoy the accomplishment of completing what they began.  Adding to the benefit, children gain an increased attention span, a better ability to plan ahead, and a greater sense of self-confidence. Who wouldn’t want that for their child?

Reading about this tool got me thinking. Could we do this with our children at home? Sure, it takes a little more time but preschoolers spend a lot of time planning their activities already. And, it really isn’t that hard. We simply begin to talking with our children about the play activities they want to engage in. We allow them to “write down” the activities and “make a plan.” Then, as we engage in play and our children begin to drift from the plan, we ask them about the plan. We even let them look at the “written plan” and ask if they still want to continue with the plan or change it. Many times they simply remember the plan and return to the activity they had initially written down. And in the process they learn to plan ahead, focus, and build self-confidence. How great is that?

Raising a Confident Child

How do children form a positive self-concept? How do they come to see themselves in a positive light? How do they develop confidence and learn to esteem themselves well? These questions arise in many a parent’s mind as they interact with and discipline their children. We want to help our children develop a persistent confidence in their abilities while not becoming arrogant. Sometimes we doubt ourselves. We wonder if we are really doing the right thing (at least I do!). We constantly search out practical advice for increasing our children’s self-confidence. Friends, family members, experts, books…we search them all to find reassurance that we are doing a good job and in hopes of finding the “magic bullet” to help our kids grow.  Well, I don’t have a magic bullet, but I have found several practical ideas to help raise confident children.

  • Warm up. Develop a warm relationship with your children. Warm parents show an interest in their children’s activities. They share their children’s joys and excitements. Doing so makes their children feel noticed and valued. It increases their self-esteem. It contributes to their self-confidence. (For more on the impact of a warm relationship, read An Amazing Parenting Insight Learned in Three Parts)
  • Praise effort, not ability. Acknowledge your children’s effort and investment rather than just the end product. Let them know you see how hard they work to make things happen. This helps our children learn their effort impacts their world and their success comes through effort. It teaches them to value effort and notice the successes found in effort, even if the end result was not what they initially intended. Effort, as opposed to waiting for something to “fall in our laps,” leads to success.  And, success builds self-confidence.(Build Your Child’s Success Mindset offers more tips.)
  • Do not overpraise. Our children need us to acknowledge their effort and appreciate their accomplishments, but overpraise will backfire. Excessive praise actually contributes to lower self-esteem. Overpraise can contribute to arrogance. Sometimes extremely positive, inflated praise can contribute to narcissism, a sense of personal grandiosity. Excessive praise can also set our children up to worry about falling short of the standards for which they have already received lavish amounts of praise.  So, go ahead and appreciate achievements. Acknowledge accomplishments. Praise effort and investment. But don’t overdo it. Don’t overpraise. It just gets in the way of healthy self-confidence. (Read How to Ruin Your Child with Praise for more.)
  • Value failure. Treat failure as a time of learning rather than a catastrophe. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn what does not work and explore changes that can lead to a better result. I like Oprah’s quote, “Think like royalty. Royalty is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness” (I hope she’ll excuse my changing her use of the word “queen” to “royalty.” If not, I guess I’ll learn from the failure.) Confident people fail gracefully. Confident people know failure is not the end of the world. Confident people recognize failure as a signal for problem-solving, making changes, and moving toward “greatness.” (Do Your Child a Favor)
  • Give your children important tasks to complete. Let them have chores around the house. Chores and tasks build a sense of competence and competence contributes to confidence. (Chores: The Gift of Significance will explain even more.)
  • Model healthy confidence in your own life. Work to improve your self-confidence and your children will follow in your example. Value your failures and talk about what you learn from them. Acknowledge your achievements while focusing on the effort and investment that led to those achievements. Accept their acknowledgements of your success with a smile and a simple “thank you.” Maintain warm loving relationships, especially with your children. Children imitate those they see and admire. They become like those they imitate. Give them a self-confident parent they can look up to and imitate.

Put these six practical actions in place and your children will grow in confidence daily!

Give Your Children the Gift of Confidence

She walked onto the stage with such poise. She calmly explained her song in a very articulate manner. Then, she performed the song beautifully. I sat among those in the crowed and listened. The performance was beautiful. Even more amazing to me was the confidence with which this 16-year-old girl presented herself. She appeared comfortable exposing herself to a crowd of potential critics. The whole experience made me think: How did this young girl learn such confidence? How can parents help their children gain confidence? How can we give our children the gift of confidence? As I pondered these questions, I thought of 6 ideas to help. I’m sure there are more, but here are six to start.

  • Give your children tasks that match their developmental ability. Do not expect your children to do more than they are developmentally ready to do. A 2-year-old will not act like an 8-year-old or an 8-year-old like a 16-year-old. Each child can only be themselves…and only act as mature as their developmental level allows. To give your children tasks that match their developmental level requires your careful observation so you can know where they “stand” developmentally. Then, give them tasks that match their developmental ability.
  • Challenge your children. This may sound contradictory to the first bullet, but it is not. Parents can give their children tasks that challenge them and fall within their developmental ability. On the other hand, expecting too little from your children sends an implicit message that they lack competence. Doing the task for them communicates a belief that they lack the ability to complete the task on their own. So, give your children tasks that present a challenge and offer guidance. Teach them what they do not know while letting them do what they can. This often means taking a somewhat “hands-off approach” while offering guidance and encouragement, in other words, doing a minimal intervention while acknowledging their progress. (For more read Good Parents Do Nothing!)
  • Allow mistakes. Mistakes help us learn. Taking time to acknowledge a mistake, explore what went wrong, and plan how to do it differently next time turns a mistake into a fantastic learning experience. Each mistake treated in this manner will help your children grow and add to their confidence. (For more read Do Your Child a Favor: LOVE Mistakes.)
  • Celebrate effort, not just achievement. Sure, achievement is great and needs to be recognized; but effort leads to achievement. When parents celebrate effort, their children choose more challenging tasks, persevere more in the face of obstacles, and ultimately, achieve more. Confidence grows. Celebrate effort! (For more read Build Your Child’s Success Mindset.)
  • Accept feelings. Minimizing, punishing, or ignoring feelings makes children feel as though they are unimportant. It communicates that “something is wrong with them” because they have unimportant or even bad feelings. Avoid responding to emotions with statements like “You’re OK” (negates the emotion and their experience), “You have nothing to be made about” (minimizes their feelings), or “I’ll give you something to cry about” (punishes them for feeling). Simply accept your children’s feelings. Help them label their feelings and teach them how to manage them as well. (For more on responding to emotions, read 6 Tips to Make Your Children’s Emotions Your Friend.)
  • Nurture dreams. Sure, some dreams are unlikely. So what? Your children’s dreams may change as they mature. In the meantime, your children’s dreams motivate their behavior and push them to achieve. As you nurture your children’s dreams, you communicate how much you value them and their dreams, believe in them and their capabilities. Nurture their dreams. (Read Grow Your Children’s Dreams for more.)

There they are—6 ways to give the gift of confidence to your children. What other ways do you suggest?

Do Your Child a Favor: LOVE Mistakes

One-hundred-twenty-three children played this video game, all 7-years-old.  No, it’s not the start of a bad joke. It’s the start of an interesting study about learning. Anyway, the children played a fast-paced game in which each player helped a zoo-keeper capture escaped animals by pressing the space bar when an animal appeared UNLESS…(there is always an “unless,” an exception) a group of three “orangutan friends” appeared. These “orangutan friends” were helping capture the other animals. They were “allies,” so the player had to refrain from capturing them. Although the children had fun playing the video game, the real purpose of the game was to test accuracy and impulse control (not pushing the space bar when the three “orangutan friends” appeared). One more thing you need to know—the whole time the 7-year-olds played, researchers monitored their brain activity. In particular, they wanted to know what happened in the brain when a child makes a mistake.

They discovered that some children exhibited a significant increase in brain activity about half-a-second after making a mistake, indicating their awareness of the mistake and their attention to what went wrong. These children exhibited improvement in their performance after making a mistake.

Another group of children did not exhibit this significant change in brain activity when they made a mistake. They seemed to “gloss over” the mistake and mentally avoid acknowledging it. Their performance did not improve. They continued to play and make the same mistakes over again.

Of course, the implication of these results seems obvious: when we pay attention to our mistakes we learn from them and improve our future performance. So why do so many children not pay attention to mistakes? Perhaps they have never learned the importance of acknowledging and learning from mistakes. As a parent, you can help remedy this situation and increase your children’s ability to learn by loving mistakes!

  1. Love your own mistakes. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it. No need to get defensive or angry. Simply acknowledge the mistake. Attend to that mistake and figure out how you can avoid it in the future. In other words, learn from your mistake. Talk to your children about mistakes you have made, what you learned from those mistakes, and how you corrected it. Modeling this type of response to mistakes will create an environment in which your children are free to do the same.
  2. Love your children’s mistakes. When you children make a mistake, address it calmly and directly. Don’t belittle them for the mistake, but don’t gloss over it either. Don’t shy away from the mistake with a simply, “It’s OK, you’ll do better next time.” Address the mistake. “You made a mistake. Mistakes happen. Let’s figure out where you went wrong and how we can fix it.” The opportunity to figure the mistake out opens the door for improvement. So explore the mistake. Talk about the mistake and what might fix it. Then enjoy the solution.

When we love our mistakes children will learn to accept mistakes as a learning opportunity. They will delve into challenges with little fear of mistakes or failure because they know mistakes lead to growth. They will pay attention to their mistakes and improve the next time; and, as a result, they will enjoy greater confidence in the present and success in the future.

Chores: The Gift of Significance

We underestimate children. By and large we expect too little of our children. We schedule every minute of their day to give them opportunities…and because we think they can’t learn as much on their own. We succumb to video games and TV shows because we think our children incapable of inventing their own activities. We fear they’ll get bored, under our feet, and on our nerves if we don’t turn on the X-Box. We jump in to tidy up their messes, fix their mistakes, and constantly remind them of their innate abilities because we fear their self-esteem will plummet from a momentary failure or less-than-perfect mark. In all actuality our children will learn more from mistakes than successes. They will create amazingly imaginative activities if we allow them to get bored. Yes, we underestimate our children. Unfortunately, discipline issues arise as a result. We underestimate their ability to complete household tasks. We expect they will not complete their homework. We assume they will get bored and nag. Our children simply live down to our expectations. Yes, we underestimate our children. But, there is a way out of this cycle. It takes some time and effort, but it yields huge benefits. “All you have to do” is let your children make a significant contribution to your household. Let me explain.

  1. Mother And Son Doing LaundryLet your children contribute to the household in ways that connect them to the family. Give them jobs that care for the family, not just themselves. For instance, let them help clean the family room, not just their own bedroom (although their bedroom is good to clean, too). Encourage them to help with everyone’s dishes and everyone’s laundry, not just their own. Then thank them for their contribution.
  2. Collaborate with your children in choosing the tasks they will complete. You don’t need to dictate every chore. Sit down, discuss, and divvy up the household tasks. Then you can talk about doing “our” work rather than “your” After all, everyone does their part. Let your language reflect that you and your child, not just your child, have chores that contribute to the household in a significant way.
  3. Make your children’s contribution part of the daily routine rather than something done on occasion. Give them the privilege of making a daily contribution to the family just like you do.
  4. Make the task one you can do together. For instance, gather the garbage from around the house together. Work in the yard together. Clean the family room together—one can vacuum while the other dusts. Fold clothes together. You get the idea. Work together on the household chores. And, talk while you work. Or, if you want to be like one of the seven dwarves from Snow White, whistle while you work.

Your children will gain many benefits when you allow them to work with you to make a significant contribution to your family. Check these benefits out.

  • Your children will gain an increased sense of purpose as they are part of something bigger than themselves. They become part of a family, not just an individual with a self-centered focus.
  • Your children will gain an increased sense of competence as they master various tasks. They will gain greater independence and confidence in their abilities.
  • Your children will gain an increased sense of intimacy. As you work with your children you can talk and laugh together. As you do, you will learn about their interests and values. You will learn about their dreams and fears. You will grow more intimate with them.
  • Your children will gain an increased sense of belonging. They will feel like an integral part of the family to which they contribute, the family that needs their contribution.
  • Your children will gain an increased sense of personal value and significance as they become an integral part of the family.

As an added bonus, you will have fewer discipline problems. Children and teens who have a healthy sense of purpose, belonging, and significance are better behaved. Children and teens with a sense of competence have nothing to prove. Children and teens with an intimate relationship with parents have less desire to rebel.

For more on children and chores, read Dear Children, The Real Reason I Make You Do Chores and Tips to End Chore Wars

A Father-Daughter Relationship Booster

The bond between a father and daughter is precious relationship. The father-daughter relationship brings one of the greatest joys a father will experience. It also brings many benefits to his daughter. A woman who had the joy of a positive father-daughter relationship experiences greater confidence. She is more likely to graduate from college and A father helps his daughter on the playgroundenter into a higher paying job traditionally held by males. She is less likely to become sexually active as a teen or experience teen pregnancy. When she marries, a daughter of an involved father is more likely to experience an intimate, fulfilling, long-lasting, and satisfying relationship. We could go on listing the positive effects of strong father-daughter relationship—like a daughter’s decreased chance of depression and greater satisfaction with her appearance–but, knowing the benefits of a strong father-daughter bond is only the beginning. What we really need to know is how to develop that strong bond? What can a father do to create the kind of father-daughter relationship that will increase the chance of his daughter receiving all these benefits? A professor and former graduate student from Baylor University have answered this question! They asked 43 fathers and 43 daughters (who were not related by the way) to pinpoint crucial moments of change in their father-daughter relationships. Remarkably, the fathers and daughters agreed as to the most important turning point in their relationships. Engaging in shared activities was the number one turning point in their relationship. Shared activities allowed fathers and daughters to develop a closer, more intimate relationship. It allowed them to spend time together and share something meaningful to both of them. Shared activities added meaning and joy to their relationship. Shared activities include everything from working together to church functions to extra-curricular activities, traveling together, working on school projects, and, the biggest one, sports.

There it is. The way to build a strong father-daughter relationship is through shared activities. What are you waiting for? Get out there and get involved in your daughter’s life. Do some work around the house or in the yard together. Volunteer together. Coach her softball team. Play chess. Go hunting. Take a trip. Spend time with your daughter doing something you will both enjoy. You will cherish those times forever and she will reap the benefits into adulthood!

Cut the Puppet Strings

Children are not our puppets. We cannot control them. (Learn more in Children Are Not Our Puppets.) In fact, if we hold our children on puppet strings, we do them a disservice. We interfere with their healthy self-image, intimate relationships, and ability to assertively take a stand for what they believe. What can you do as a parent to cut the puppet strings and let go? What can you do to keep your children safe while not controlling them? These five actions can help you let go of over-control while encouraging your children to mature.

  1. grandfather and granddaughter with computer at homeGet curious. Encourage conversation with your children. Learn about their interests and opinions by asking open-ended questions. Learn about their friends, their dreams, their fears, their hobbies. Our children are fascinating! Get curious and learn about them by talking with them often.
  2. Get your own life. Don’t live your life through your children. Don’t encourage your children to fulfill your dreams. Get your own life and let your children have their life. That will mean allowing them to become involved in activities without you. It will mean allowing them to meet other adults they can look up to and go to for advice. Let your children have their own life may mean allowing them to have no interest at all in something you find exciting. Let your children have a life that is separate from your life.
  3. Be consistent and flexible. Children need us to be consistent in our love for them and our expectations of them. They need to know the rules and the consequences of breaking those rules. As they grow, they benefit from knowing the reasoning behind the rules as well. Our children also need us to be flexible. They need to have the opportunity to talk about the rules and give their explanation for why they believe an exception or a change is called for as they mature. They need to know we will listen and consider their opinion. They need to know we are willing to make changes in the rules or expectations when they make sense and show maturity. We grow as they grow. The rules changes as we all mature.
  4. Accept their choices. Children and adolescents need to make choices. Let them make age appropriate choices. You may not let your preschooler choose where to go for vacation, but let them choose between two outfits to wear for the day. As your children grow, let them have more choice and responsibility. They might make choices you disagree with. Sometimes these choices are merely opinion, like whether to wear a pullover shirt or a button up shirt. Other times their choices will just be wrong. When these wrong choices are not dangerous or life threatening, accept them. They will suffer the consequences. Let them. We learn when we make wrong choices and experience the results.
  5. Lean in. No matter what your children do, lean in to your relationship with them. Our children really need to know we want a relationship with them when they do suffer consequences for bad choices. They need to know our love is unconditional. When they do something that makes you proud, lean in to the relationship. When they make a mistake or fail, lean in to the relationship. When they disobey and you have to discipline them, lean in to the relationship. For love covers a multitude of sins.

 

These five practices can help you cut the puppet strings and train your children to become real boys and girls. No, they will become even more than that. They will become mature and responsible young men and women.

Children Are Not Our Puppets

Our children taught us an important lesson when they were mere toddlers. It’s true. I remember the lesson clearly. They told us by their actions and words: “We are not your puppets. You cannot control us.” They remind us of this fact every time we offer to help them and they say “No, I do” in their broken toddler English…or, when we tell them not to do something and they smile at us before doing it anyway. Children are not our puppets. They will not allow us to control them.

Dancing MarionetteMost parents still try to exert some level of control over their children. For instance:

  • We fear for our children’s safety so we control their actions with rigid rules and expectations.
  • In an effort to protect our children from emotional pain and hurt, we hover over their lives and become involved in every activity and stick our nose in all their drama trying to control every outcome.
  • In anger at their disobedience or “attitude” we step back, distancing ourselves and withholding love at a time when they likely need to know our love is unconditional and never ending.
  • We may even try to change them by inducing guilt with statements like “Your mother would be so disappointed’ or “after all I’ve done for you….”

I’m sure you recognize some of these actions in yourself. I know I do. We attempt to control our children out of fear. Nonetheless, our children are not our puppets. They will not be controlled. Like Pinocchio, they do not want to be puppets. They want to be “real” boys and girls.

In all reality, our children are right. We hurt our children when we control them. Research suggests:

  • Controlling our children crushes their self-confidence. It leaves our children with a chronic sense of guilt, a belief that something is inherently wrong with them…that they are bad.
  • Children who grow up with over-controlling parents tend to be hypercritical of themselves and others. Critical of themselves, they struggle with a positive self-image. Critical of others, they can struggle with friendships.
  • Since over-controlling parents make every (or almost every) decision for their children, their children become dependent. They do no learn to think independently and make their own decisions. They rely on others to do their thinking for them.
  • Children who feel controlled may lie, sneak, or openly rebel in an effort to establish their own identity and have the opportunity to “think for themselves.”
  • Since over-controlled children do not learn healthy ways to assert themselves and confidently express their opinions, they have greater difficulty in relationships when they become adults as well.

Our children are right. They are not our puppets. We do them a disservice when we attempt to control them. We interfere with them developing a healthy self-image, intimate relationships, and the ability to assertively stand up for what they believe.   What can a parent do to cut the puppet strings and let go of control? Read Cut the Puppet Strings to discover five actions that will do the trick!

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