A Positive Discipline educator recently noted that we all want our children to be good problem solvers…but we don’t want them to have any problems. Why is that? Because there’s nothing harder than watching my child struggle. I want to jump in and fix things so he can just have it easy and not get discouraged and…um…not learn any survival skills. Wait, that’s not what I want!
I want him to be strong, independent, confident and resilient, so my job as a parent can’t include fixing my son’s problems. I need to let him struggle, lift the weight, build those “life muscles.” It’s a fine line: too much frustration and he’ll give up; not enough frustration and he won’t learn persistence. Putting support structures in place can help bridge that gap between frustration and success.
What do support structures look like? Here are some possibilities:
*If my child struggles in school, I WILL help him access help by contacting a teacher to make an appointment for him and I WILL make sure that he follows through and keeps the appointment. I WILL help him set up a study schedule and make sure he follows through with it. And I WILL cheer for every step toward improvement along the way. I will NOT allow him to sit back and fail because he doesn’t have the life experience to understand all the choices he has available to him when he struggles.
*If my child breaks a rule at school, I WILL help him accept the consequence and create a plan for not repeating that mistake. I will NOT try to rescue him from the consequence because I want him to learn to admit mistakes, make amends, and move on with better choices.
*If my child struggles in a sport or other activity, I WILL help him practice, cheer for baby steps toward improvement, and help him communicate with the sponsor or coach about how to best meet their expectations. I will NOT allow him to quit the season early because I want him to learn to honor his commitments.
*If my child “forgets” to do chores, I WILL help him set up a plan for being responsible and monitor that plan for success. I will NOT do his chores for him because I want him to learn that he plays a role in our family and we all help out.
At our house, we spent last year busting the myth that “smart kids don’t have to ask for help.” It was painful. But our support structure was effective, and toward the end of the year, my son wrote this in about 48 point font and turned it in for part of an English project: “I HAVE LEARNED that sometimes Life is going to try to POUND YOU INTO THE GROUND, but half the fun of living is BEING ABLE TO GET UP AND GLOAT about how, in the end, YOU DID IT!”
Now that’s a kid with life muscles!