Toni Gerber Hope
September 18, 2015
Are you an involved parent — or a hovering parent? It's never too early to begin supporting a child's independence. Find out how you're doing.
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Your kid is struggling to fit pieces into the shape sorter, so she starts clapping them together like cymbals. You:
Your baby is not going to flunk kindergarten — or fail to get into the Ivy League — if she chooses to use her shapes to make “music.” By following her lead, you show her she’s loved and appreciated. Feeling secure in this way is crucial for developing confidence.
At the playground, another boy is playing with your son’s favorite truck. You:
If it looks like the boy is planning to take the truck home, sure, have a word with his caregiver. But otherwise, learning to share and developing good social skills will serve your son or daughter well throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Your toddler has a runny nose and dry cough. You:
We’ve all cursed the mom who sends her sick child to school or daycare, only to infect our kid (and then us too!). But if your child is active and seems happy — and isn’t too drippy or is running a high fever — send her off. Trust your pediatrician and your own common sense. You don’t want to turn your child into a little hypochondriac!
At soccer, your daughter is on the bench — again. You:
If an adult is being abusive, you have to speak up, says psychologist Anne Dunnewold, PhD, author of "Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box:" Otherwise, rushing in sends the message to your child that she’s not competent to handle her own problems. Your job: Coach her to generate her own solutions.
You hear through the grapevine about a science project your child should be working on. You:
You’ve already passed sixth grade. Now it’s your child’s turn to do it — and develop the organizational skills she’ll need through all her school years and beyond. It can be hard to step back, but failing to get the project in on time, even if it means a lower grade, is more valuable than getting an “A” based on Mom’s diligence.
Your eighth-grader wasn’t invited to a party that all her friends are going to. You:
Her heart is broken and so is yours. But your job isn’t to try to fix things or arrange diversions; it’s to help her reflect on her own behavior. It’s possible the party-giver is just a plain mean, but it’s also possible your daughter had her own moment of meanness and is now paying the price, says Dunnewold. Learning to think about her words and actions will be invaluable.
Your tenth-grader forgot her lunch. You:
It's in our parental DNA to feed our kids, so this is a tough one. But if you enable a child's forgetfulness, she may never become responsible. Rather than serve up a hand-delivered lunch, let her fend for herself. (She won't starve!) After school, offer a hefty snack, and have her brainstorm ways to help her remember his lunch in the future.
Your son was invited camping with three other boys and a dad. You:
You don’t want to send your son into the wilderness with someone you don't know. On the other hand, you don't want to send him the message that strangers are suspect and the world is dangerous. Showing enthusiasm will help to shore up your child's willingness to try new things. And once you speak to the other parent, he'll be a stranger no more.
Your child is registering for her first year of college. You:
This is when it gets hard, especially if your daughter is leaving home to live on campus. The most important thing you can do at this point is convey your confidence that she'll make smart choices and that she'll be able to figure out how to get any guidance she may need from her adviser.
You son must take a year-long senior seminar and write a 20-page thesis. You:
Another tough one. You worry he won’t graduate on time (and what that will cost!), but your nagging can backfire leading him to procrastinate even more. Don’t volunteer to edit the paper. If your son asks for help, suggest he talk to the professor about finding appropriate on-campus help.
Your daughter has trouble waking up in the morning. Now that she has to be at her job by 9 AM, you:
One morning of dashing to work without washing her hair or being greeted by an annoyed boss likely will be enough to nudge your daughter to come up with a way to make sure she's never late again.
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