Children need to experience healthy anxiety. Everybody does. Just the right amount of frustration or concern motivates us to take useful action. With healthy anxiety, we prepare for our presentation, study for that test, or put on our seat belt. If we take over our children’s responsibility, we carry their healthy anxiety for them. We end up worrying about their responsibility, so they don’t have to. When we do this, we rob them of important steps toward maturity.
Many people say that when they were kids, they were way more resilient and responsible.
Why was that?
Is it because they were a well behaved, obedient child? I doubt it. That kind of pseudo maturity falls apart when the structures collapse. If mom or dad isn’t there to notice, correct, reward or punish, then why bother? True responsibility comes from the inside. It doesn’t have to be monitored, praised or rewarded although we all like a little appreciation and acknowledgement.
Self-discipline is not an act of people pleasing, it is the relationship you have with your values. It’s doing the right thing because you understand why. Of course, this takes time but what sends a child in the right direction is allowing them to face surmountable challenges.
We release responsibility to children slowly and with guidance. We teach them how to do a task and watch over them while they put that learning into action (or not). We give them space to struggle and think things through before we give them a reminder. We might even see them struggle, just a little, as we hold our breath before jumping in. Eventually, they learn to pull themselves up into the swing, tie their own shoelaces, take care of their schoolwork, get themselves ready and so on. When the timing is right, we lovingly pull back.
How can we nurture the security in our child to struggle just enough, and to ask for help when they need it?
Pick up on the signals when a child is seeking more independence.
Avoid taking over, you are way too good at doing all these things.
When a child has a problem, stand behind them. Pull out their resources – What could work? What has worked before? How can I help?
When a child knows we have their back and we believe in them, they are motivated by the hope of success rather than paralyzed by the fear of failure.