Updating the Parent Toolbox

As each school year begins, our children embark on a new journey filled with excitement, challenges, successes and mistakes. There will be days when children come home from school devastated by a fight with friends, a low test grade, or an unpleasant classmate. When these things happen, parents often desire to shield their children from these hurtful experiences.

Often, our natural reaction is to pull out the “fix-it” toolbox, in an attempt to protect our children by navigating the situation ourselves or running to their rescue before they experience any pain. Well… I hate to break it to you, but it is time to update the toolbox. We must throw the old “fixing” tools in the recycle bin and replace them with the new and improved “preparing kids for life” tools.

This tool box includes the skills needed to raise kids who can work to resolve their own problems, make mistakes, cry sometimes, learn valuable lessons, and head into life prepared and competent.

The tools:

  • When your child comes home from school with a problem… EMPATHIZE. Do not jump in and try to save them or give advice. Simply listen and show understanding. Say something like, “It sounds like it was a hard day at school today” or, “I can tell you are really worried about this.” The message is that you hear, feel, and understand their pain. You can experience the situation from their point of view. This does not indicate that you agree with everything they believe or do, but that you acknowledge what they are saying and validate their feelings.
  • Ask questions that imply they are capable of solving the problem. “Do you have any ideas of how you would like to handle this situation?” “What do you think you will do first?” Affirm that you are available to listen or help brainstorm possible solutions. Do not tell them what to do. Engage in thoughtful discussion rather than attempt to control.
  • Allow children to make mistakes. Step back and let them make the decisions regarding how they would like to handle the specific problem. This may not be the decision you would make or recommend, but let them find out in their own way and make mistakes along the way. Watch them experiment safely and learn from the experience.
  • Evaluate decisions and outcomes together. Spend time discussing choices, mistakes, and behaviors. Was it a success? Did it result in a different outcome? How did the other person react? Discuss lessons learned and provide the opportunity to brainstorm new solutions or choices if needed.

Keep in mind that your mission is to raise children who will someday effectively manage their own lives. You are your children’s teacher. Replacing the old “fix- it” tools with these will help develop independent, well-rounded, socially competent young children who can face life’s problems with confidence and handle situations with resilience.

Author Jill Early has spent several years in the classroom environment helping children and parents build lifelong tools for success academically and in life. For more information or support fine-tuning your toolbox, please contact Jill at 713-365-9015 or jearly@heritagebehavioral.com.

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