One thing I have noticed, particularly in working with parents of primary children, is the fear. The fear that you might not be making the right choices for your children, the fear that they might be missing out on something, the fear that they will not have every possible advantage in life, the over-whelming fear that if you don’t micro-manage every aspect of your children’s lives they might not turn out alright!! For those parents I would like to give a message of reassurance and let them know that long term, it really doesn’t matter. Having helped bring up four children and having had the last one leave home just a month ago (hallelujah!!), I know that the important things in their lives were in their hearts not in their minds. The more you try to micro-manage, control and modify them as young children the more resistance you are going to reap when they are teenagers. KEEP THIS IN MIND!! One day these lovely, obedient, smart, thoughtful, young children are going to be big enough and stroppy enough to be able to look you in the eye and say « No, I don’t care what you want, I am going to, and there is nothing you can do about it ». And at that point we need to be able to celebrate that moment knowing that our child knows the difference between right and wrong, knows how to assess risk well, is confident and capable enough to handle any situation they find themselves in, and knows they can always call on us for help – no matter what! At that moment we have to have the courage to say « You go girl!! » (or boy as the case may be) and let them go and practice being a grownup.
Last November I had to say goodbye to my daughter (20 years old) as she left for India for 3 months, on a voluntary programme to work with prostitutes and children with aids in north-west India, near Lahore where people are blowing themselves up on a daily basis. She and her friends (2 other girls and one guy) have endured what to me would be unimaginable hardships of temperature, sanitation, food poisoning, they have been the object of almost constant harassment, have been at the mercy of entrenched and obdurate bureaucracy, and yet have had the most amazing time of their lives (if you are interested in their story go to http://gypsygitan.wordpress.com ). And it was not what they knew that helped them most it was their ability to connect with people, to care, to understand other people’s perspectives, to ask for help, to problem solve, to take immediate action when needed, to persist and to be absolutely determined.
These are some of the skills I think we need to focus on with our children, not whether they got the best marks or the highest score but how do they deal with it when they don’t. How do they feel, what can they do about it, how can they recover quickly, can they appreciate how others feel, how can they help others feel OK?
Be assured that as long as your children know that they are loved and know where their home is they will turn out fine. I think our most important job as parents is to help our children take care of their ‘heart-life’. What I mean by this is helping them to keep in touch with their own heart and not spend their whole life in their minds.
The Golden Rules for Growing Resilient Children
Children only do what works – eg. if little Johnny keeps forgetting his lunch, stop bringing it in for him, a little hunger is a great memory prompt – the same goes for gym gear, footwear, raincoats etc..
Give them your time – spend time with your children, just listening, helping, encouraging – it’s not the activity that counts it’s the time
Teach them caution not fear – encourage them to assess risks and take risks, if it’s not life threatening why shouldn’t they do it?
Help them take responsibility for their own actions – if they earn demerits have them reflect on what they could do differently next time, how they can learn from their mistakes, DO NOT make excuses for them
Help them learn to fight their own battles – if they have been hard done by they must learn to represent themselves, to seek justice for themselves, not have you do it for them – STOP fighting their battles for them
Encourage them to take on new challenges and use failure as feedback – that’s how we learn. Share your own personal stories of failure, consequences and recovery – teach them how to recover well from difficulties, setbacks and failure
Focus on who they are not what they do – children only need to know they are loved and to know where their home is to turn out OK
Highlight positive role models of success through learning and success through perseverance, determination, focus, passion, courage and persistence
Strive to be worthy of imitation