Have you ever been in a position to have to ask someone for something? How did it make you feel? Your child is in that position every day. Some children will ask, some children will just do what they want and get away with it or, if it doesn’t please you, get disciplined for it.
When children come into the world they need help and the caregiver will do everything for them. Within a few months they begin to try to do for themselves and we are delighted. The mystery is what happens between the child beginning to walk and the caregiver saying, “You can do it” to a child trying to dress himself and the caregiver saying, “Here let me do it for you”?
The purpose of independence (to become dependent on self) is to become competent in managing your life and to gain the confidence to be able to do it. So the question for you is: Are you willing to encourage your child on their journey to independence?
If so, begin to let go by never doing for children what they can do for themselves, by pointing out their strengths not their mistakes, by having the faith to believe they can solve the problems they face, not they way you would but in their own way, by setting boundaries that will protect them and not by overprotecting and never letting them explore. Take time to train, be there to encourage and support and then LET GO!
As we think of all we have to do we can become stressed and cranky. This is probably the busiest time of year. Most of us are saying there is never enough time. Well interestingly everyone gets 24 hours a day to divide up as we see fit. Decisions are always being made about where we put our time and energy. May I suggest that you seriously think about the benefits of giving your time as a gift to those you love especially your child. A child correlates time with love. Think for a moment about who loved you as a child and you will probably think of somone who spent time with you. Most of us think we need a lot of time to spend with a child but they are happy with short increments as long as they are given regularly and at your offering not their demanding. A child will demand attention from us when they are feeling left out and neglected and they will not mind getting negative attention. Any attention is better than none.
The benefits of giving the gift of time include building a strong parent/child relationship, learning what our child’s hopes, dreams and interests are, taking away our guilt for being too busy with other things, learning how to have fun and reducing our own stress through laughter and joy. Most importantly it conveys to our child how glad we are to have them in our lives and how much we love them. Remember time costs no money and doesn’t have to be gift wrapped. The invitation will always be treasured and the gift will always be remembered.
Having lived in a blended family and led workshops for parents living with other people’s children I’ve realized how difficult creating a new kind of family can be. Most of us do not recognize that a blended family is a different kind of family, It is not better, not worse, just different. It will never operate like a nuclear family. According to Linda Albert and Elizabeth Einstein in their publication “Strengthening Your Stepfamily” the differences are:
- Born of a loss – children lose control, contact and continuity; biological parent loses status and stability; stepparent loses the marriage dream and privacy.
- Non-residential parent is always psychologically present.
- Children move between two or more homes.
- Previous parent/child relationship based on years of memories and alliances build strong biological connections.
- Different family backgrounds can add to the confusion.
- Lack of a legal relationship means the stepparent has no legal rights.
Trying to make a blended family into a nuclear family will only lead to crisis. A large percentage of these families fail.
The key to blending a family is to keep the couple relationship strong, understand the process, allow it time to evolve, respect all members and most of all communicate effectively. A healthy blended family is a wonderful gift to our children.
Someone asked me not too long ago what a “normal” kid was. I didn’t have an answer as to what is “normal” but I did know what a discouraged child looked like. It was a child whose little self-esteem cup was empty. This child needed to display negative behaviors in order to get attention, to gain power, to get even and feel justified when hurt and to act helpless when the standards seemed to high to achieve. This child needed redirection through encouragement. Then I thought about the child that was well adjusted. A child that was resilient. I found that this child will display most of the following traits:
- A true sense of self worth
- A feeling of belonging
- Socially acceptable goals
- Meets the needs of the situation
- Thinks in terms of “we” rather than “I”
- Assumes responsibility
- Demonstrates interest in others
- Co-operates with others
- Encourages others
- Has the courage to try and fail
- Has a willingness to share
- Is honest
- Puts forth genuine effort
Maybe “normal” is not something we need to be concerned about but perhaps we need to work towards the goal if raising a “well adjusted” child.
Raising children can be a difficult job. At least, I found it difficult, raising 3 children with different personalities, temperaments and needs. I found myself meeting their individual needs and forgetting that we were all part of a group called “family”. Everyone, including me needed to feel accepted and valued for their contributions. I wasn’t sure how to do this so I searched for some parent education that could help me.
In the 1970’s there wasn’t much available so I had to search hard and long to find something that took me step by step toward unifying my family into a group where everyone felt a sense of belonging. The philosophy was based on the psychology of Alfred Adler and was made simple enough for me to understand by Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs in his book Children the Challenge, co-written with Vicki Stolz, RN. I found the examples in the book exactly what I was experiencing at my house.
Little by little I moved the atmosphere in my home from autocratic to democratic. Democracy did not mean freedom to do as one wanted but freedom to decide within limits how to behave. I learned the difference between punishment and consequences and difference between praise and encouragement. I realized my over-protection was discouraging and that I needed to let go and allow my children to learn from their mistakes in my loving environment. I learned to communicate with respect and invite their cooperation rather than demand it.
I also realized I needed support to help me change. I found all this and more and have spent the last 40 years sharing with parents, teachers and caregivers how these principles work. The benefits were many, but most of all I felt confident having a set of tools that helped me to relax, enjoy my children and know what to do when the next challenge arose. I wasn’t perfect but Dreikurs taught me to have the “courage to imperfect”. I am still learning!