We all live such busy lives that there are many times we find ourselves doing things for our children that they are more than capable of doing for themselves. If, for example, we consider the routine of getting our kids ready for school in the mornings…… we wake them up, we make them their breakfast, we pack their snack, we make their lunch, we pack their backpack, we remind them when they have to leave. We have to ask ourselves why we continue to do it all? Maybe it’s because it is easier, quicker and habit for us to just do it.
When our children are younger, we have to do more for them but, as they grow up, we often still find ourselves doing things for them that they are really perfectly capable of doing for themselves. In the long run, this does not serve or teach our children well.
Regardless of the reason, if we as parents are too quick to step in and do things for our children, solve their problems, give them the answers and over-manage them and their lives, we effectively rob them of adequate opportunities to prove themselves capable. Being too good a “PA” to your child can contribute towards stalling the development of a strong sense of self.
“Never do for a child what a child can do for themselves.”
As parents we need to understand that a child’s sense of self is in development and that it has to be given adequate opportunity in order for it to take root and grow into something strong. A sense of self is partially governed by gene pool but the rest will develop as a result of a combination of the following:
- How we parent and raise our child
- The influence of family, peers and mentors
- Opportunities presented to them
- The culture we live in
CHARACTERISTICS OF A STRONG SENSE OF SELF
There is no one answer to this as there are many views and opinions on the subject but the following list highlights some of the things that I feel contribute towards having a strong sense of self:
- To be authentic, genuine and true to oneself, one’s beliefs and values
- To recognize one’s strengths and weaknesses
- To have the desire to learn
- To have humility
- To be able to trust and rely on oneself
- To be able to set personal boundaries
- To be able to lead yourself and take ownership and responsibility for your life
- To make choices without always requiring assurance and approval from others
- To have good self-management skills
- To be able to exercise self-control:
- Pay attention
- Be a good listener
- Delay gratification
- Tolerate frustration
- Control impulses
- To have resilience
- To be connected, feel capable, feel counted and to have courage. The 4 C’s of Adlerian Parenting (Betty Lou Bettner)
HOW CAN WE HELP OUR CHILDREN DEVELOP A STRONG SENSE OF SELF?
- Encourage your child as much as you can and avoid excessive praise
- Cultivate the capacity for your child to develop good coping skills. I see coping skills as being a bit like seeds that need to be cultivated, nurtured and nourished in order to help them take root and grow
- Be involved and supportive without being over-functioning and intrusive
- Encourage your child to find their potential
- Allow your child to trip, fall and fail ([provided it is safe to do so) and learn from mistakes, it will make them stronger
- Guide and encourage your child to problem solve so they can experience the pride gained from working something out for themself or doing it with no help. This will instill in them a sense of achievement
- Help your child “figure out” what to do rather than doing it for them
- The more a child does for himself, the better he will feel about himself and the more he will be able trust in himself and rely upon himself
- Help your child develop within themselves a desire to be capable and interested in learning – internal motivation
- Internal motivation is like a generator that will help a child figure out their own particular interests, abilities and passions. It is the basis for all true learning
- Take pleasure in your child’s interests especially when they are different from yours
- Appreciate the child in front of you and not the child of your fantasies
- Transmit to your child your values and beliefs
- Model altruism within your family and community
As parents we must make every effort not to deny our children the opportunity of doing and learning for themselves as it is this “capacity of feeling capable” that will contribute towards helping them develop a strong sense of self. The more we over-function for our children and save them from failure, the more we rob them of the opportunity and capacity to develop this.
We need to recognize our children for who they are and guide them on their journey to becoming resilient, resourceful young adults who can find joy, meaning and purpose in their lives. Try to incorporate some of these things into your parenting style to help your child develop and cultivate a strong sense of self.
If you have any other things that you believe can help your child develop a strong sense of self, I would love to hear from you.