When my kids were young, I would define it as helping, loving, and caring.
When the animal project fell apart, and they were in tears, I helped them rebuild and make it better.
When a much-needed textbook was forgotten in a classroom, my husband and daughter jumped in the car after school hours, tracked down the janitor, and retrieved the book.
When they struggled with math or reading, I emailed the teacher.
Over the years, I’ve called several moms to get to the bottom of friendship problems.
When they ran out of their allowance and wanted a toy, I usually bought it.
When my kids were young, it was easier to play interference and discern if my actions were helpful, loving, and caring.
As my kids got older, the lines became blurrier. It became increasingly difficult to figure out when to step in and when to step back and painfully watch them struggle or even fail.
Having worked with hundreds of moms over the last 15 years, I have experienced a rising trend and epidemic that is concerning and negatively impacting our kids.
We have become a generation of hyper-protective, overly involved, micromanaging parents.
We want the best for our kids, and our intentions are well-meaning, yet studies are showing our approach isn’t working, it’s not healthy, nor is it helping them.
The result is we’re raising indulged, entitled, anxious, depressed, stressed out, overwhelmed kids who are ill-prepared for adulthood.
We are coddling them. Psychologists use the term “enmeshed,” others call it helicopter or lawnmower parenting.
No matter how you define it, these terms aren’t very helpful when we’re unclear about what to do differently when we’re trying so hard to do everything right.
I have a theory – At the root, I believe we’ve confused what it really means to help, love, and care for our kids. Somewhere along the way, it’s gotten muddled.
I’ve seen again and again working and talking with moms the damaging effects, and I’ve been guilty myself.
And I’ve experienced firsthand the victory that lies on the other side when we finally let go and allow our kids to struggle, fail and rise up again stronger.
When my daughter graduated from college, she had gone through some challenges, was struggling to make ends meet, and trying to find her footing. My husband and I, in an attempt to make things easier, paid some of her bills to lighten her load. Over time it became increasingly clear that in doing so, we were clipping her wings, keeping her dependent and unprepared to deal with the real world.
We unintentionally were sending her the unspoken message that she couldn’t make it on her own and needed our help.
So we stopped. It took a little time to undo what we’d created. It was uncomfortable and painful to watch her struggle, crash and burn, and ultimately learn, grow, and come out on the other side.
As a result, she has spread her wings and developed confidence and the strength she needs to do whatever it takes. And she is incredibly proud of herself, and so are we.
My husband and I wanted the best for our daughter, and yet it became increasingly clear we weren’t helping her.
We had to rethink what it really meant to be helpful, loving, and caring.
What does it really mean to help, love, and care for our kids as they get older?
Is what we’re really doing helping our kids or stunting their growth?
Are our actions truly loving, or are we parenting by fear, not wanting our kids to be uncomfortable or taking the path of less resistance?
What does it mean to truly care as they’re getting older – are we doing too much or not caring enough?
These are all the questions we need to wrestle with.
Here are 3 Ways I Want To Challenge Us To ReThink What It Means To Help, Love And Care As Parents.
Helping Is Letting Them Struggle.
We are so good at giving advice and attempting to fix things for our kids. If they would just do what we say it would make life a lot easier for them, right?
Right. And it would make life a lot easier for us because then we wouldn’t have to feel the discomfort of watching them struggle and make things harder for themselves in the process of figuring things out.
So we try to offer our advice, tell them what to do, nag, and lecture (among other things).
The truth is…
They don’t listen. They get angry. They fight and resist even more. They appear to care even less. Instead of taking responsibility, they wind up blaming you.
They don’t want our advice. They want us to back off.
And, I’m convinced that our teenager’s reactions are spot on.
There is a developmental reason that they push back – their fight for independence is necessary as they move towards adulthood.
No one got stronger lifting one-pound weights. You only get stronger and grow through the discomfort.
Honor their struggles, welcome them and see them as positive.
Believe in them and allow them to struggle. You will stand in awe as you watch them overcome obstacles and grow in their self-confidence and grit.
The Loving Thing Is To Let Them Make Mistakes.
Loving our kids is understanding that mistakes aren’t bad. They are learning opportunities.
In order to learn how to write, read, ride a bike, or do anything well, there are steps you take and many mistakes you will make before you can do anything well.
From the time they were toddlers, we would tell our kids not to touch the hot stove, only to have them touch it anyway. Chalk it up to human nature, they had to find out themselves, and they still do.
As a parent, you have to resist the urge to jump and run every time your kid forgets their lunch, their soccer cleats or homework. When you jump and run, you rob them of the opportunity to figure things out.
If they’re late to school, let them get the tardy. Let them feel the impact of being late to football practice versus nagging. And hold your tongue. You don’t need to say anything because they will learn from these mistakes.
Accept that your kids will make mistakes, and it’s the loving thing not to rescue them.
Mistakes are the launchpad for learning and growth.
Caring Means You Allow Them To Fail and Experience Pain.
Allowing our kids to fail and experience pain may be the hardest thing we’ll ever do.
Of course, we want to shield them from having to feel pain. And yet, allowing our kids to fail is one of the most loving things we can do because when do, we send them the message that we believe they are capable and resilient.
When we let go of trying to control outcomes, they get to experience how their choices make them feel and how it impacts them.
They get to experience the pain of failing a test if they don’t study.
They experience not having money if they don’t work.
They learn how to be accountable for their actions.
They learn they can deal with hard knocks and get back up again.
They learn they’re stronger than they think.
It’s more loving to allow our kids to fail now rather than later. The older they get, the higher the cost.
I encourage and challenge each of us to wrestle with what it really means to help, love, and care for our kids as they get older.
Is what we’re really doing really helping our kids or stunting their growth?
Are our actions truly loving, or might we need to let go of our fear and lean into faith and trust more?
What does it mean to truly care for our kids as they’re getting older – are we doing too much or not caring enough?