Stop being a helicopter parent
My daughter and I were walking along the sidewalk.
I was a few steps ahead of her and wasn’t paying keen attention to where I was going.
There was a dip in the pavement. My foot tripped and I fell.
She rushed to help me and said something profound when I was back on my feet.
“Mom, you’re in my life for a reason. You walk the path before me so that I can know what not to do.”
Seeing me fall prompted her to avoid walking the same path. It was amazing how easily she was able to pull a life lesson from that experience.
It’s an important lesson that forms the basis of what I’ll be discussing in this article.
Instead, your life, actions and words should be a powerful example for them to follow.
Now, I’m not saying that children should be given free rein to do whatever they please. Far from it!
What I am saying though is that we should give our children room to learn, grow and become who they’re meant to be.
Get To Know Your Children
My mom often used the analogy of a tree when describing the process of raising children. A tree is just a tiny seed when its journey begins. Without the right attention, that seed won’t grow into the majestic tree it’s meant to be.
Notice I said the right attention. All trees aren’t created equal. Some require more sunlight, water and nourishment than others. Each tree needs unique attention.
The same is true with children. Each child is different and requires unique attention. My three children have unique personalities, interests, wants, and desires. I had to take the time to get to know these things about them.
There’s usually balance in a functioning two-parent household. The father would act as the reinforcer for the son and the mother would act as the reinforcer for the daughter.
Being a single mother means I don’t have that luxury. I’m raising two boys and a girl so I have to be the reinforcing parent on all fronts. Deeply understanding each child forms a big part of doing this effectively.
Practical Tips For Getting To Know Each Of Your Children
Getting to know each child individually was difficult. But, it was the only way for me to break down any barriers they built. I had to instill a foundation of trust. That foundation relies heavily on guidance rather than dictatorship.
I used several tactics and I’ll share three of them with you. First, I would ask my mom to watch the other two children so that I could take the other out and spend quality time with him or her. That child got to choose whatever he or she wanted to do that day.
It was a great way for me to learn about what they liked and help them build individual bonds with me. Each child felt more connected to me as a result because there wasn’t a need to share my attention.
Periodic one-on-one meetings were another strategy that I used. These meetings were great opportunities for me to discover what was happening in their world.
Movie night was also a great way for us to connect. We would have movie nights as a family, but we would also have individual movie nights. These were the nights when each child would get one-on-one movie time with me. We would watch whatever the child likes to watch and spend time catching up on shows we both liked.
Have Meaningful Conversations
I learned to be vulnerable and honest with my kids. Their respect for me grew because of this approach. They came to me willingly to talk about things, even if that meant having difficult conversations. I wasn’t afraid to be open with them about my mistakes because I wanted them to understand that I’m not perfect. My job is to ensure they don’t make the same mistakes I did.
There’s a standard question that I ask them each time they come to me for guidance – do you want me to just listen or do you want my advice? I give them whatever they need based on their response. This creates valuable opportunities for meaningful conversations.
Create an environment where your children feel free to ask questions without fear of judgement. Don’t talk at your kids, speak with them. Keep doors of communication open and avoid directive conversations. My children trust and value my responses to them because I’ve created an environment of open communication.
Family meetings are a regular part of my household. I began this tradition during the divorce because our lives were constantly changing and I wanted to keep abreast with how things were affecting each of them. These family meetings happened each Sunday and we would discuss the past week and the week ahead.
I allowed them to speak freely. I would also share:
- Information with them that I felt they needed to know about what was happening or what was about to happen
- My expectations about general topics like school, chores, extra curricular activities, fun times, activities planned for the week etc.
We continue to have family meetings. They really do help create an atmosphere where children can express themselves freely.
You’re Raising Adults, Not Children
As parents, we’re charged with a heavy responsibility to help our children become adults who contribute positively to society. So, we should view them as more than children. We should embed as many positive values in them as possible so that they can grow into the positive adults they’re meant to be.
Allow Your Children To Become Who They’re Meant To Be
Some parents either directly or indirectly project their dreams onto their children. We must remember that our kids’ lives aren’t about us. Instead, it’s about treating them like the unique individuals they are and helping them discover their greatness.
Your children need a parent who they can communicate freely with. They need a parent who is going to encourage them to pursue their natural talents and abilities so that they can carve out their own path in this world.
Listen to your children and build meaningful relationships with them. Take the time to get to know what makes them unique. Build a strong bond with them that demonstrates how much you appreciate their uniqueness.