Thursday, November 21, 2013

When Should Parents Back Off?

Should I get involved or let it go? When our kids deal with problems, we have a choice to make. We want life to be a smooth ride for them, but we also know they need to learn to handle problem on their own. Here are some questions you could ask yourself to determine if you should get involved or back off, or a little of both.

1. Would I help my child more if I coached him rather than play for him? If you have ever watched your child play sports, then you understand the feeling of wishing you could get out there and do it for him. But if we always do it for them, they never develop the skills needed in life. No one is saying this will be easy for the parents. You will have to resist every urge to jump in and take over. A take-over can often be a selfish act on the part of a parent. It robs the child of the opportunity to grow. This constitutes one of those moments when parenting takes restraint and selflessness -- doing what is best for the child, not the parent -- no matter how emotionally uncomfortable it may be for the parent.

2. Should I be protecting or teaching? At times, we must step in and protect -- physically, spiritually, or emotionally. However, there are times when we should teach. Carefully consider the case to see if protection is more appropriate. Do they need to be shielded or taught to fight (figuratively speaking)? If we over-react, we could miss a great opportunity to help our children grow stronger. Never do for your child what you can teach them to do for themselves. At the same time, be mindful of their limits, not expecting them to solve problems far too advanced for them. Sometimes, they need us to protect them behind the scenes while we send them out to fight the way we trained them.

3. Am I expressing love or building dependence? Parents express love to their children by giving. You give them time, compassion, food, clothing, shelter, and even a lot of things they probably don't need. The danger comes when our giving undercuts our ability to teach responsibility. Giving must have its limits. For children to learn traits like contentment, a hard work ethic, and initiative, there must come a point when they stop expecting someone else to give what they can gain for themselves. Never stop loving, just make sure it doesn't feed dependence. 

4. Should I comfort or defend my child? Sometimes, kids need a shoulder to cry on, not a superhero to squash their problems. Kids need a home to be a rock in their life. Stable and dependable, mom and dad can always be relied on to provide security when they get home. This is what helps kids battle through disappointments, personality conflicts, and difficult tasks. To feel secure, children need their parents’ love, not a perfect world.

5. Will I create more drama or solve a problem by getting involved? When it comes to childhood friendships, consider this principle: stay out of squabbling, and bust up bullying. Too many parents get involved in their children’s peer-to-peer conflicts, creating more drama in a situation that would have resolved itself on its own. Usually, providing a little counsel on how to help your child resolve a conflict would help it pass quickly. When it comes to bullying, your child needs more than advice on how to handle the situation. He needs your intervention.

6. Should I add accountability as I grant more freedom? Children should be given more freedom because they have earned it. As they mature, give them more privileges, but never trust their flesh. Even the most mature Christian adult needs accountability. Look at the websites they surf, check up on their grades at school, talk to them about conduct you observe, and place restrictions on the TV. These are all examples of supervision that keep kids accountable. When they know you are engaged in their life, it keeps them honest.  Supervision is a parent’s biblical obligation that should never be negated. If you trust your child to do the right thing, it should be because you are holding them accountable.

In summary, parents should never back off loving, comforting, instructing, supervising, and protecting their children. At the same time, the more we can take the role of a navigator, the more we’ll be able to steer them to a life of responsibility and resilience.

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