Parents get a bad rap lately, for being over-involved (hovering) with their children.
Believe it or not, to me there is no “wrong” way to be involved with your child.
But wait. What if you “over-praise” and raise entitled children? Even if the accolades feel empty or petty and undeserved?
Suppose the involvement is a way of compensating for guilt?
Suppose it’s over-coddling or patronizing?
I still say: not a mistake.
Why? Because it’s coming from a place of love.
The secret to enjoying being a helicopter parent is not hanging back and clenching your teeth while you pretend not to be involved so that you can relax for a minute and raise resilient, independent kids. That’s ridiculous!
No, the real secret to enjoying helicoptering, is what to do when you are scared.
Or you feel mad, disappointed, and worried. These emotions are what trip us up!
We over-parent when we’re unsteady with emotions.
So we really need to talk about this! This is what’s real!! And.. what you really need help with.
How do you deal with our children’s tough emotions? Here are 4 guidelines:
- Re-Invent Yourself
- Your child is frustrating and disappointing.
- You don’t feel they respond to your guidance
- They’re loaded with intense negative feelings.
- You believe your child doesn’t try hard enough.
- They don’t want to overcome their fears and insecurities.
But you have to re-invent yourself and PRETEND that all their feelings are right and just. Here’s how:
Re-Invention Story Examples:
- Your child cries pathetically, every time they lose, displaying terrible sportsmanship.
Reinvention: They are very ambitious! They want to win! This is a great quality to be celebrated and praised.
- Your child bosses other children around, and pouts when things don’t go her way.
Reinvention: Well, this is a sign of a future leader. Learning how to seduce followers is about to begin.
- After having to say “no” five times, you finally start yelling. Why won’t this kid listen?
Reinvention: This is a sign of a strong will. The inflexibility means your child is not going to bend to someone else’s will and be very determined instead. Strong will=passion.
- Your child will not go and be with other children and you’re starting to worry he’s anti-social, as you try to push him to be more normal.
Reinvention: Shy and introverted kids are great observers. They listen well. They’re often snugglier.
- Your child is lazy. She doesn’t want to do anything. You secretly worry this kid is never going to amount to anything!
Reinvention: All great creative thinkers are not productive do-ers. They may sit around a lot staring into thin air, and lounge around in a relaxed fashion. Remember Newton invented gravity sitting under a tree.
- Your child is too fragile, and starts to cry if someone even so much as says “boo.” You worry this kid isn’t going to make it in the real world.
Reinvention: This kid has a great depth of feeling, and it’s a heightened instrument. Most people with high EQ have this quality.
No matter how disappointed and worried you are by your child’s weaknesses and struggles, I have never met a child, including my own, who didn’t have struggles. Everybody has to learn to manage themselves in a world that didn’t always fit their disposition and needs.
In fact, without even re-inventing, many children are just plain negative. They may be tricky little liars, unpleasant, demanding, angry or cynical, but still do amazing things with their lives. These character types become critics and TV personalities, high-powered business executives, fantastic parents and strategic thinkers.
2. Protect Your Child’s Ego.
Parenting used to be to teach, model, and “raise” your child right. Well, we’re not farmers anymore. This is a brand new world, which they may even know better than we do.
So your job as a parent has evolved. Now, you are needed to help soften the blow of your child’s intrinsic weaknesses and challenges. Whatever their self-attacks, their insecurities, their doubts and fears, you are needed as the wind beneath their sails.
Here’s How To Protect The Ego:
Here’s a sentence to suit almost all occasions, when it comes to being that wind, by protecting their ego: “It isn’t easy having this (fill-in-the-blank) feeling. More specific examples?
Your Child Has A Challenging Teacher:
Your impulse: tell your child to harder.
What you should say instead? “It’s harder to work for someone who isn’t friendly and who doesn’t understand.”
Your Child Doesn’t Want To Go Or Do Something They Have To Do.
Your impulse is to get them to do it, and set up rewards and consequences to toe the line.
What you should say instead? ” Do you want me to help you get out of this assignment? If I do, will it help?”
Your child will surprise you and do the right thing!
Remember: If they decide to slack off because they can’t bear to be out there proactively, believe them. Don’t allow your child to become invisible emotionally, while you guide them to be more “normal” or efficient.
Your Child Is Bored Or Just Sits Around Watching Their I-Phone.
Your impulse is to get them to do something more educational or constructive.
What you should say instead? “I’d like to see you do something else. Even for an hour or two. Is this possible? Why not?” It’s a conversation and a negotiation, not a power struggle. Your goal is to understand more about what your child is accomplishing emotionally. I had a daughter who spent hours and hours watching YouTube beauty and makeup videos. It made me crazy. But guess what? She now has a high-powered job at Chanel, because she knew so much about internet marketing. Trust the direction your child needs to go in. Support it.
Protecting your child’s ego has the greatest power in the long run. When your child walks into a room without self-doubt and un-conflicted about who they really are, versus who they think they should be.
3. Be Good Company
To be good company to your child, you have to be someone they are safe to have all their feelings with, who doesn’t judge, and who is compassionate.
Of course, we don’t have these feelings, because we are worried and hardwired to teach and guide. So this isn’t easy.
But as long as you can do steps 1 and 2, hearing their feelings and faking it until you’re making it when you are protecting their ego, they will be OK.
The lesson is not: be better. They know that. Leave that to the world. The lesson from you is: don’t be hard on yourself, nobody is perfect, I see you, I am here.
Being good company to your child has great benefits. Your children will want to be near you, they will trust that other people will also receive them in a welcoming and positive way, and then, your worry quotient will go down when they are successful!
Things to Say to Be Good Company To Your Child
“Managing frustration is the hardest thing in the world.” (Say this instead of making the feelings go away — and thereby communicating you can’t stand those feelings.)
“When people don’t want to be with us, it hurts, and it’s hard to figure out why and decide how to handle it.” (Say this instead of teaching behaviors your child can use, which can be unconsciously undermining and dis-empowering.)
“You are very smart and competent, don’t let this teacher bring you down even though math isn’t your strong suit. Keep trying as best you can. I couldn’t do it!” Say this instead of teaching your child that hard work gets you places. The hard work is always dealing with feelings.
“You are struggling with (disappointment, frustration, anger, fear, insecurity) because you have a heart full of emotion, which is a good thing. I’m so glad you’re talking about it with me.” Say this instead of moving away from your child’s feeling and not creating space for it.
4. Don’t Push Yourself Under The Rug
And finally, there’s you. The shame, angst, worry, and pressure to change our children is hardwired and ever-present. It’s also passed down, emotionally. Chances are, you may not have positive feelings about your own perceived weaknesses and negative emotions.
You really do have to put on your own oxygen mask before helping your child with theirs, which means challenging your own angst, judgmental feelings, worries, and self-criticism. Because we extend to our children the very same attitudes we have towards ourselves: unforgiving, harsh, critical, striving to be better at the cost of enjoying being alive.
Our children help us evolve. For them, we can do everything and anything. Including learning how to integrate, accept, and learn how to use the widest range of emotion possible to navigate this challenging world.
Watch my video on “The Wobble” on my website to start resolving your negative thoughts and feelings.
Sign up to register your name for an upcoming workshop on how to help difficult children feel good about themselves, including:
- What to do with your negative feelings.
- What to say to difficult children?
- How to stay connected to the child, not their behaviors?