How long of a tether do you keep on your kids?
The struggle for authority is an age-old dilemma. Who chooses? How much authority should we give our kids? Freedom is something we all need, yet how do we structure our lives so that we get what we need and our children have the appropriate setting in which to make their own choices, learn and grow? As long as our kids are at home with us, there is a safety net beneath them. Certainly we want the most for our children. We want them to surpass our goals and achieve ones of their own. So we want them to grow. We want them to face challenges. As parents, where do we begin? How do we know what is appropriate, and how do we know exactly what our kids need to do to learn responsibility? This is a nagging question, and although there is no easy way through the parenting process, there are certain basic things we can do to help our kids become responsible adults.
Here are five strategies to help kids learn the basics:
1.) Help kids develop knowledge of themselves and appreciation of their individuality. We must give our kids the freedom to choose which activities and interests they wish to explore. It is our job to facilitate their discovery of their individual and very personal interests by listening to who they are and what they tell us. This means we do not impose our interests and ideas upon them. After offering to them various different opportunities, we accept and support their choices without judgment.
2.) Help kids take ownership of their choices. We need to look at every experience our kids have as an opportunity to cultivate self-understanding. This means that when our kids make choices for themselves, they learn to evaluate the consequences without judgment from us. This gives them time to figure out certain life lessons for themselves within the parameter of a safe setting. This is far more impactful that mere rhetoric from us. We are here to listen and offer support during this process. It is a tremendously valuable experience to let our kids make reasonable choices cradled within the opportunity to start over when things don’t turn out as anticipated.
3.) Help kids learn how to manage their time. As parents, we help our kids to do this by setting forth our expectations of their responsibilities for the day (homework, athletic or music practice, chores etc.) and then allowing them to accomplish their duties independently, of course with a gentle reminder or two along the way. There should be reasonable consequences in place for failure to accomplish general expectations.
4.) Help kids to accept their feelings without judgment. This starts with our ability to accept our own feelings without judgment. Our kids observe how we accept, experience and appropriately express our feelings. This gives them the standard for accepting and expressing their own feelings. Then, we must give our kids the space to appropriately feel their feelings without judgment. This gives our kids the beautiful knowledge about how to take responsibility for their own feelings when they are in a safe space to do so.