Your little bundle of joy is the most important person in the whole world to you. In a few years, your little one will be turning your hair grey: running with her friends, climbing trees, and trying to ride her bike without a helmet. The most difficult thing in the world is not just keeping your child safe, but knowing when to let go and let them make their own mistakes. Mistakes are how kids learn.
For the first few years, from baby to toddler, it is your job to remove the dangers from their lives by child proofing your home, buying the safest car seat, and keeping harmful chemicals out of their hands. Unfortunately, they cannot be protected like that forever. As they start to do things on their own, the more you hover trying to keep dangers away, the more they will resent you for it—and may even act more dangerously as a form of rebellion.
It’s hard to strike a balance between caution and overprotection that works for both parent and child. You can ease the pain for yourself by teaching your kids how to care for themselves instead of doing it for them. This comes with consequences, though. You might have to watch them get hurt and learn for themselves.
Instead of badgering your child to stretch before exercising, show her the proper way to do things by practicing what you preach and doing the stretches yourself. If you want him to wear a seatbelt when driving, wear one yourself. Your kids will remember that when they are learning to drive in their teenage years. If you have warned your pre-teen fourteen times to wear his shin pads during soccer practice, and he doesn’t, let him play a game without them to see the consequences of that behavior. He’ll probably feel the sting of a stray ball or get kicked hard enough to remember to wear his shin pads next time. Kids repeatedly warned not to wander off might benefit from finding themselves lost in a crowd, if only for a few moments before parents come back to retrieve them.
A child who is nagged repeatedly will tune out a parent’s advice. The best way to avoid this effect is to demonstrate consequences rather than delivering lectures. Whether you punish the child, or let her experience the consequences of bad behavior, is determined on a case-by-case basis. You can’t let a small child wander into the street as a form of punishment. In that case, you need to administer a punishment as a reminder of unacceptable behavior. This problem is advancing into the digital age. Parents who monitor their kids’ social media pages too closely seem overbearing and out of touch, driving kids to experiment with lying and sneaking around.
As a parent, you need to spend your child’s formative years teaching her good behavior and smart choices by giving her consequences for bad behavior while reinforcing the good.
While it might seem risky to allow kids to make a mistake like trying drugs or driving without a seat belt, if you have taught them how to make good choices all through their lives, hopefully they will make the right choice on their own. If they try something dangerous, you should be there with consequences to reinforce your family values and beliefs.
You have to be ready for a child to make a bad decision without spiraling into a vicious cycle of wondering where you went wrong as a parent. If you think back to your own teenage years, you can understand a bit more easily how kids need to break away from their parents and experience the world for themselves. If you’ve instilled your values from the beginning, and don’t come across as rigid and overbearing, most children want to do the right thing. They may experiment, but they won’t rebel.
Byline: Suzanne Withers believes that it’s important to compassionately guide your children away from risky behavior that might cause Personal Injury