Parenting Guidelines (Now they tell me)
By Executive Director of Special Education, Dr. Tamara Jackson
Challenge Success offers nine (9) Parenting Guidelines. These guidelines are common-sense tips that are based on children’s known developmental needs and recent research on child and adolescent well being.
1 Define success on your terms.
2 Maintain play time, downtime, and family time. Avoid over-scheduling.
3 Love your children unconditionally.
4 Discipline and set limits.
5 Allow kids space to develop on their own and make mistakes.
6 Build responsibility at home and in the community.
8 Ease performance pressure.
9 Debunk college myths.
For a complete description of the guidelines please see http://www.challengesuccess.org/parents/parenting-guidelines/
As a parent of two, now grown men, I looked over the list of guidelines to see which ones captured my parenting style (or lack thereof). I would have to say that when raising my sons I had the most difficulty allowing my children to make mistakes (Guideline #5). For example, if my sons left their homework at home I would fax it to the main office to be sent to their teachers. Yes, I said fax, this was over 20 years ago. At home and at school I went out of my way to smooth out all the bumps in their lives. I even reduced their chores so they could concentrate on doing their homework and being the best students possible.
After reading The Blessings of a Skinned Knee and The Blessings of a B- by Wendy Mogel Ph.D., I now understand that I did them no favors by protecting them from the world. I should have focused on letting them fail and then prepare them to learn from their mistakes. I now understand that this is how children learn resilience. We want our children to be resilient. We want them to have confidence to try out for the football team or the cheerleading squad or audition for the lead in the school play--even if they do not make the team or the squad, or get the lead in the play. We want them to be able to persevere through setbacks, take on challenges and risk making mistakes to reach a goal. Numerous scientific studies support the importance of resilience as a powerful force in helping children overcome not only significant adversity but everyday stresses. Resilient children possess certain qualities and a way of viewing themselves and the world that are not apparent in youngsters who have not been successful in meeting challenges and pressures. Resilient youngsters are able to translate this view or mindset into effective action. Resilient children are hopeful and possess high self-worth. (Read more in: Building Resilience in Kids: https://www.stress.org/building-resilience-in-kid
When children make a mistake, as parents we need to tell them that this is not a failure but an opportunity to learn. One that will bring them success in the future. As parents, we can share our own mistakes with our children and explain how we felt at the time and how we were able to bounce back. We must help our children realize that when they engage confidently with a challenge, anything is possible and failure is not something to fear.
Erik Erikson, developmental psychologist, also speaks to the need for allowing children space to develop on their own and make mistakes. He theorizes that humans develop in stages. There are eight psychosocial stages in which a healthy developing individual should pass through from infancy to late adulthood. I will share the first five psychosocial stages with you. During each stage, the person experiences a psychosocial crisis which could have a positive or negative outcome for personality development. Erikson believed that parents play an important role in their child’s mastery of these challenges.
Here are the stages of psycho-social development:
1. Trust vs. Mistrust (birth to 2): The infant develops a sense of trust when interactions provide reliability, care, and affection. A lack of this will lead to mistrust.
2. Autonomy vs. Shame (ages 2-3): Erikson states it is critical that parents allow their children to explore the limits of their abilities within an encouraging environment which is tolerant of failure. Success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure results in feelings of shame and doubt.
3. Initiative vs. Guilt (ages 3-5) The child begins to assert control and power over their environment by planning activities, accomplishing tasks and facing challenges. Success at this stage leads to a sense of purpose. If initiative is dismissed or discouraged, either through criticism or control, children develop a sense of guilt.
4. Industry vs. Inferiority (ages 5-12) It is at this stage that the child’s peer group will gain greater significance and will become a major source of the child’s self-esteem. The child is coping with new learning and social demands. Success leads to a sense of competence, while failure results in feelings of inferiority.
5. Identity vs. Role Confusion (ages 12-18) Teenagers explore who they are as individuals, and seek to establish a sense of self, and may experiment with different roles, activities, and behaviors. According to Erikson, this is important to the process of forming a strong identity and developing a sense of direction in life.
During each stage, the child experiences a psychosocial crisis which could have a positive or negative outcome for personality development. Each stage requires parents to allow the child more autonomy. In order to develop resilience, we need to give our children autonomy, allow them to feel competent and let them know we support them as they grow. https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html
What does this all mean? What would I have done differently? What should parents do now? I would follow the advice of Challenge Success: Kids today experience unprecedented levels of adult direction and intervention. Whenever possible, let kids play and work on their own. Encourage appropriate risk-taking and allow kids to make mistakes–and learn from them. Self-direction and risk-taking breed resilience, creative thinking, and long-term success.