Before school starts, you can’t go into a store without seeing school supplies. Kids are cramming in their summer reading and some parents are relieved that summer is almost over.
The new school year seems like a natural time to think about your child’s future. Parents often say they want health, happiness and success for their children, but do their actions actually help or hurt when it comes to preparing their kids for these things?
“Many parents micromanage their children’s lives,” says Charlie Sykes, author of 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education and Dumbing Down our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write or Add. “Between parents who are extremely anxious to make sure their children are always happy and the obsession of the education system about self-esteem, we have this weird stew that profoundly impacts our children in lasting ways.”
How do children become responsible adults if they don’t work through problems, experience failure or deal with difficult people?
Numerous media stories highlight parents hovering over their children in the young adult years. Some parents even call employers and involve themselves in their child’s love life.
“Instead of allowing them to experience adversities, parents bubble-wrap their kids,” Sykes says. “This keeps children from developing coping and problem-solving skills. People learn how to be competent adults by working through the bumps and bruises and ups and downs. If parents do this for them, the kids have no immunity to the normal curve balls life throws at us.”
Sykes contends that parents who really want to help their kids be successful must learn to say no. Unfortunately, many parents want to enable, be a good buddy or be constantly concerned about staying on their kids’ good side.
“I think I had wonderful parents,” Sykes says. “I guarantee you they were not obsessed about what I thought or felt about them. They did not freak out when I was unhappy about their decisions. They stayed the course as my parents. Instead of being concerned about how I felt on a particular day, they were focused on the end results.”
Sykes believes we aren’t doing children any favors by insulating them from reality and responsibility. He encourages parents to pick positive and negative role models, and find out what they do with their children. Use them as examples of what you want to see and what is not appropriate.
“If you inflate your children’s expectations, every area of life, including work, marriage and parenting will disappoint them,” Sykes says. “Parents who believe it is their job to meet every single ‘want’ of their child run the risk of creating unrealistic expectations. This will probably lead to great disappointment in life.”
So, step back and evaluate the things you currently do for your child. If those things aren’t moving your child toward adulthood, it’s a great time to try something different.
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