Is it possible that a skinned knee, failure on a test and not having your child's life completely planned out is really a good thing? Dr. Wendy Mogel, clinical psychologist, and author of "The Blessing of the Skinned Knee" and "The Blessing of a B Minus," would say yes.
"The biggest problem I see today is loving, devoted parents, armed with good intentions, are treating their children like royalty," says Mogel. "Parents are putting themselves in the role of butler, secret police, talent agent, ATM and hospital staff member, doing things for their children that they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves."
Mogel believes this parental behavior is ultimately a bad set-up for kids.
"I frequently see parents who treat their children like hothouse flowers, who must depend on their parents for survival," she says. "They overschedule, overprotect and overindulge their children to the point that the children end up feeling a combination of entitled, dependent, anxious and like they don't measure up."
In many instances, these young people head off to college full of hope. Three months later they are back home because they didn't know how to deal with their roommate, the professor refused to spoonfeed them information, and they have no idea how to work through problems on their own.
If it feels like Mogel is stepping all over your toes, you are not alone.
"There are many great parents out there with fantastic intentions who get carried away in their efforts to raise a successful adult," says Mogel. "In the end, nobody wins. Boys go on strike, girls become perfectionistic, and parents get angry."
So how can parents avoid falling in this trap? Mogel provides these words of encouragement to well-intentioned parents:
• Don't mistake a snapshot taken today with the epic movie of your child's life. Kids go through phases ... glorious ones and rotten ones.
• Don't confuse children's wants with their needs. Don't fall for the smooth talking 15-year-old's line: 'Mom, you'll probably want to buy me a brand-new car because it'll be really, really, really, safe ... definitely safer than me driving your big, old van.' Privileges are not entitlements.
• Remember, your child is hardwired for competence. Let them learn to do for themselves.
• Before you nag, remind, criticize, advise, chime in or over-explain, say to yourself "W.A.I.T" (Why am I talking?) Listen four times more than you talk.
• Remember that disappointments are a necessary preparation for adult life. When your child doesn't get invited to her friend's birthday party, make the team or get a big part in the play, stay calm. Without these experiences, your child will be ill-equipped for the real world.
n Be alert but not automatically alarmed. Question yourself. Stop and reflect: Is this situation unsafe or just uncomfortable for my child? Is it an emergency or a new challenge?
• Don't take it personally if your teenager treats you badly. Judge his character not on the consistency of in-house politeness, clarity of speech or degree of eye contact, but on what teachers say, whether he's welcomed by his friends' parents and his manners with neighbors, salespeople and servers in restaurants.
Mogel acknowledges that parenting is hard work and that the competition is fierce.
On Tuesday from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Baylor School Alumni Chapel, she will be sharing her insights for parents who are intent on raising self-reliant, resilient and accountable young people. The event is free and open to the public.
Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at email@example.com.
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