Have you every wondered why it is a good idea to have faith in your children? How else will they learn to have faith in themselves? Of course it is important to show your faith with actions. The foundation actions to show faith in your children are avoidance actions such as avoiding over-parenting, rescuing, fixing, reminding (lecturing).
Too often parents tell their children to be responsible, but then don’t allow them opportunities to be responsible. I think it was Dreikurs who said, “The best way to teach children to be responsible is for parents to be consciously irresponsible.” In other words (and I know Dreikurs said this), “Don’t do things for children that they can do for themselves.”
If you have been taking responsibility for things your children could be responsible for (rescuing, fixing, taking their lunch to school when they forget), be prepared for objections. If you have been a “willing slave” to your children, don’t be surprised if they have a tantrum when you stop—even when you let them know in advance that you have been making a mistake by not having faith in them to handle many of their challenges.
There is nothing better than a real success story to teach the value of this Positive Discipline tool. After talking with Leslie about the value of allowing children to suffer when you stop rescuing (much different from making them suffer), and having faith in them to work through their suffering to feel more capable, she shared the following story:
I’m sure you hear this all the time; parents who say, “I tried what you suggested and it worked!” but I still feel compelled to share this.
A few hours after you and I talked, my 15-year-old son called, sounding desperate, saying, “Mom, please come pick me up at school! I have so much homework!”
I couldn’t anyway since I don’t drive to work, but calmly said, “Hmmm, that’s too bad.”
“But Mom. You don’t understand. I need a ride.”
And I said, “I can’t, but I have faith in you. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
Right afterwards, I called my husband (who is now working at home starting a new business and who has been complaining that he always “has” to pick up our son because he feels so guilty with such daily pleas, but it interrupts his work) to expect a call any second but to stand firm and allow our son to get home on his own.
The best part? That night my son told me he and his friend took the city bus home together and had the “best” time, stopping to buy candy and laughing all the way home.
Really, if you’re not too busy, could you come live with my family and me?
BTW: Thought it worth mentioning, he also got his homework done.
This was such a great example of having faith in your children. I think it is worth mentioning a few other suggestions I shared with Leslie about allowing children to suffer.
- Express empathy. (Once is enough.)
- Avoid lectures.
- Do not rescue or fix.
- Let them know you have faith in them to work it out.
- When they get upset and/or annoyed that their pleas for special service aren’t working, let them have their feelings. Have faith in them to work through it.
- If they can’t find a solution, invite them to put the problem on the family meeting agenda where they can get help brainstorming for solutions.
You may not always experience the happy ending shared in Leslie’s example. That is not the point. The point is that your children will develop life skills and a sense of capability in an atmosphere of loving support that does not include “bawling them out” (lectures), and then “bailing them out” (fixing an rescuing). Have faith in your children.
Meanwhile keep having regular family meetings so your children learn and practice the skills of giving and receiving compliments and focusing on solutions that are respectful to everyone. Regular family meetings provide your children with many skills to have faith in themselves.