Letting Go Allows Children To Grow

Author: Dr. Steven Richfield

Although the parenting journey is typically paved with good intentions, the roadmap can be hampered by ambiguity, uncertainty and parents’ own issues. These forces dig deep into decision-making, leaving impact for better, or perhaps, for worse. Unsure of direction, some parents demand extreme loyalty to their wishes, prohibit acceptable forms of self-expression, or reject children’s independence when conflicts arise with parental values. Not wanting to yield to children’s need for autonomy, parents who “over steer” place stunting controls upon friendships, activities, routines, and other areas.

Children’s identity formation requires parents gradually relieve the pressure to strictly conform and widen the parameters for autonomous functioning. This is critical for future psychological health. Consider these points when calibrating your parenting compass:

Refrain from “directional parenting” when possible.

Although it’s tempting to rigidly map out your child’s social and activity life for both personal and practical reasons, the results can be problematic from the standpoint of psychological development. Later in life, these children are prone to follow the will of others or have problems with personal commitments and self-awareness. While it is critical to supply guidance, childhood is a time to safely discover themselves. They need freedom to determine their likes, dislikes, and aspirations, apart from what parents want for them.

Loving guidance also means knowing when to let them make their own decisions.

Even young children need to feel free to express and be granted social choices and after school activity preferences, and to decide on some school matters. Knowing parents recognize when to withhold their opinion and give children the latitude to make acceptable mistakes that contain valuable life lessons. Alternately, the feelings of satisfaction and self-determination that comes from following their own growing discretion advances character development.

Take inventory of personal issues or they may act as blinders.

Some adults have ego wounds or attachment needs that motivate their parenting decisions. For example, rather than suffer the embarrassment of their child not wearing the latest clothing or engaging in socially sanctioned activities, they don’t allow children’s input and make decisions for them. Parents may also speak for their children to ensure that they don’t utter the “wrong” response. Some parents justify decisions to curtail separation or independence because the child is “not old enough” when it is the parent that is unprepared for these steps toward emotional self-sufficiency.

Recognize the importance of changing standards and larger goals as children age.

It is critically important for parents to lower the bar in some areas while raising the bar of expectations in others. For example, earlier requirements for an orderly room give way to rules for schoolwork, safety, and openness. Letting go of parental pet peeves provides room for them to self-navigate and contend with the consequences of their actions or inaction. By limiting reminders and rescuing we allow life experience to teach longstanding lessons.

Dr. Steven Richfield is an author and child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting. He has developed a child-friendly, self-control/social skills building program called Parent Coaching Cards now in use in thousands of homes and schools throughout the world. His book, “The Parent Coach: A New Approach To Parenting In Today’s Society,” is available through Sopris West (sopriswest.com or 1-800-547-6747) He can be contacted at director@parentcoachcards.com or 610-238-4450. To learn more, visit www.parentcoachcards.com

Photo credits: http://morguefile.com/

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