As a parent, you feel pressure to do things right. One problem is that no one quite seems to agree what right is in this context. On top of that, sometimes your instincts may tell you to do the opposite of what your friends, family, and even total strangers think you should. How should a modern parent navigate all these conflicting messages? Sometimes, going against the grain is best.
Let Them Fail
No, you shouldn’t sign your kids up for an activity they can’t possibly succeed at and then sit on the sidelines and laugh when the inevitable happens. However, what you should do sometimes is step back and let your kid make a mistake. This can be hard because as a parent, you don’t ever want to see your child hurt or disappointed. However, children build resilience when they try and sometimes don’t succeed at things within a generally supportive framework. They also learn that they don’t have to be petrified of failure. Furthermore, you cannot possibly prevent every mistake. No matter how well you teach your child to be money smart, they still may end up with debt as an adult, a hard fact to accept but an important one regardless.
Have a Life
Parents often feel that their lives need to revolve around their children. While this may be true at certain stages, newborns need someone around 24/7, you are not required to devote every bit of your leisure time and money to your kids. In fact, doing so is not helpful. It’s good for children to gradually learn to see their parents as autonomous adults who have their own hopes and dreams. Maybe you want to finish your college degree but you’re worried about taking time away for your kids. You might be worried about the money as well. However, it’s good for kids to see their parents working toward a big accomplishment. As for the costs, there are many ways to cover those, including with a private student loan.
Step Back for Conflicts
Another common parental impulse is jumping in to try to fix problems your child is having with a sibling or a friend. Of course, you shouldn’t let your child bully or be bullied, but letting kids do some of their own work in resolving conflict is important to their development. Your children should know that they can always come to you if there is a problem, but they should be encouraged to try to mediate disputes on their own first. This is a skill that will serve them well throughout their life.
Setting boundaries with your children is also not an easy task. When it comes to discipline, it can often feel easier to simply give in to whatever your child wants rather than fight them on it. The problem with this is twofold. First, it doesn’t adequately prepare your child for a world where they can’t always do exactly what they want. Second, it led to burnout for you. Children actually crave boundaries to some extent. You should be clear, concrete and consistent about what those boundaries are. Respecting your child’s boundaries sets an important example as well. You need to know what your kids are up to, but this doesn’t extend to reading a diary or violating their privacy in other ways.