Developing Independent, Confident, Resilient Children

The Parents Council recently hosted author and parenting guru Vicki Hoefle for the final talk of its 2018–2019 speaker series. In a presentation laced with humor and insight, Vicki shared many pearls of wisdom.
The Job of Parents
Parenting is about developing a relationship with people who are too young and inexperienced to know what a healthy relationship is. Our children look to us to model what a good, loving relationship is. When we yell, disregard, boss, control, and argue, they come to equate that with how one treats the people you love.
 
We train our kids through the way that we parent. The good news and the bad news is that you are the change agent. Kids’ behavior is a result of your responses to them.
 
I asked myself what kind of strategies let me know that I’m in a healthy relationship? It was things like cooperation, acceptance, listening, honoring others’ perspectives
 
We want to raise an engaged, thinking children who ask questions, challenge authority, and navigate messy situations. We have the responsibility to get kids ready to enter their adult lives with confidence and enthusiasm. At 18 we want them to be able to say. “I am so ready. I am so prepared.”
 
As parents, we want kids to learn about themselves.
 
The Best-Intentions Trap
It’s easy to fall into the trap of making all the decisions for your kids. Even when coming from a loving, supportive place, if you happily do things for your kids, you risk giving them the message that they need your help and don’t have the ability to do things for themselves. You don’t want to be a maid to your children. Instead you want to give them the message that it’s good to be independent.
 
I notice that when I step back, my kids stepped up. Often my best intentions caused the most problems. The more involved I was, the less responsive my kids were. At times it seemed as if I was living my children’s lives for them. Less was truly more.
 
Many times discipline spills over into control. The goal should be to teach kids to control, discipline, and regulate themselves, both when you are around and especially when you’re not.
 
Parents’ Role in Fostering Independence and Self-Esteem
Two things that are most impactful to a child’s self-esteem are the ability to take care of themselves and the ability to contribute to a group that they are part of. Consequently, parents need to allow their kids to be contributing members of the family, making them feel invested rather than like visitors. Take a moment and ask yourself how often you invite your children to be contributing members of the family.
 
From the beginning, starting when they are crawling around on the floor and speaking their first words, they’re giving us the message that they want to step up.
 
We train our kids through the way that we parent. One of my mantras is, ‘If they can walk, they can work.”
 
The good news is that our children give us information about what they need to parent them.
 
Rather than focus on the negative, focus on the positive. No one does better when they feel bad about themselves.
 
Parents’ Role in Fostering Resiliency
Human experience is maybe 50% joy and 50% hell. As adults, we experience frustration and set-backs daily. It is important to understand that it is temporary, manageable, and something you can move through. If parents remove all the hits, obstacles, rejection, and frustrations that children will experience, it makes It harder for kids to develop the strategies, confidence, and resiliency to keep on going. The trend of teen depression is alarming, and I think that our well-intended, snowplow parenting is a contributing cause.
 
The goal of parents is to teach children healthy coping mechanisms versus having them feel wrong, bad, or broken when they experience set-backs or feel negative emotions.
 
When things get tense, consider how to reframe the moment and encourage resilience in a child.
 
As role models, our children look to us to understand how to respond to difficult situations. It’s important to share one’s own experience with the ups and downs, coping mechanisms, conflict, and emotional health.
 
Next Steps—Opportunities for Changing the Dynamic
Build your own parenting muscle by changing just one thing to empower your children more. But remember, any change entails going through a messy stretch. It can look like you’re going backwards. But often in about two weeks, after they know you’re serious it won’t be coming to the rescue, kids rise to the occasion and adjust the new expectations.
 
I want you to think about how you define your role as parents. How much of what you do is actually for you versus for your children?
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