Do you find yourself fighting the urge to say to your teen, “Been there, done that. Let me show you how it’s done”? I do, too… although looking back to my younger days, I can honestly say that I learned the most when I had to solve things myself.
On a personal note, my children were amazed to hear that when I studied in France for my junior year of college, I was only able to call home three times. There were no cell phones, no computers or email, and it cost $40 for a 20-minute phone call, which I had to make from the post office. Even though the program was well-supervised, I had lots of decisions to make and challenges to meet. No mom or dad to rely on, no instant feedback… and it was the most amazing and growth-filled year of my life!
It takes so much time to explain and guide and teach. You may feel it’s faster and more efficient to take care of it yourself. In the short-term, being pressed for time and patience, you want to step in and do it yourself; however, if you do, you're raising a child who:
* doesn’t know how to problem-solve.
* runs to you to fix everything.
* cannot function independently.
* cannot be depended upon to accomplish tasks.
* has low self-esteem.
Now consider the long-term picture. What do you see fifteen years down the road? Most parents I talk to say they want their children to be confident, self-sufficient, happy and successful. For that to happen, they need the opportunity to grow. This requires parents who are able to step back and let their children experience life. Here are some tips to help you on this path.
* As always, take a breath and think – Whose problem is it? If it’s not an issue of health or safety, consider whether you need to be part of it.
* Your child will make mistakes. Most mistakes are not fatal, but they are necessary to become confident and competent.
* Express confidence that your teen can come up with a solution.
* Offer to be available to help (not to do it for them).
* Listen carefully. Accept and acknowledge feelings.
* Teach him/her how to problem-solve. Some first steps are:
* Brainstorm and narrow down possible action steps.
* Evaluate how realistic the possibilities are.
* Set a time frame for action.
It is said that we are born with all the abilities, wisdom and potential we need to take us through life. Trust that this is true for your child, too. You’ve been responsible for a long time for all aspects of his well-being. Help him tap into his innate potential to care for himself and find his own solutions.