In the space between The Free-Range Parent and The Hovering Helicopter stands the Thoughtful Parent. Your gut tells you that throwing all caution to the wind and ignoring safety is less than ideal. Nor is it ideal to encase your kids in physical and emotional bubble wrap. How is a parent to know the right path that encourages growth, courage and resilience?
Consider being a Thoughtful Parent. This will involve your willingness to be open to new concepts and to reflect on the choices that you might otherwise automatically make raising your children.
It takes some time and self-reflection, but the benefits are substantial for you and everyone in your family.
Consider what motivates you. Most human behaviors are motivated by love or fear: the desire for something valuable (traits like courage, development of new skills) or the fear of bad things happening (hurt feelings, broken bones, etc.), or some combination of both.
That’s good! Both are necessary. Being aware of the balance and the impact each has on the choices you make is the key.
Example 1: You are at the playground with your 3-year-old.
Fearful: “Be careful!” “Not so high!” “Look out!”
Thoughtful: “You can do it!” “Here’s how to hold on tight.” “Walk by the fence like this so the swing can’t hit you.”
Example 2: Your child fell while trying to skateboard.
Fearful: “I was afraid that would happen!”
Thoughtful: “That was a spectacular effort!” “You are brave!”
Example 3: Your child wants to jump off the diving board.
Fearful: “You aren’t old enough yet.”
Thoughtful: “Let’s see what we need to give you a safe try!”
Example 4: While running fast, your little one falls and scrapes his knee.
Fearful: “See what happens when you go too fast?”
Thoughtful: “You were running like the wind!” “Let’s clean you up before you try again.”
It’s more difficult to control your body language, but with practice you can learn to express confidence rather than worry.
When you make a thoughtful choice to allow your child to challenge herself while keeping her safe, it’s okay to “fake it ‘til you make it.”
The reward for keeping your own anxiety in check is watching your child become braver as she develops skills and a sense of competence.
She will also learn to weather the inevitable bumps and bruises, taking them in stride as part of the learning process.
Dr. Lesley Iwinski is the mother of three grown children, a family physician and owner of Growing Peaceful Families, LLC. She offers classes, workshops and seminars.
Info: (859) 333-3053 or www.growingpeacefulfamilies.com.