How do you feel when your children struggle? What can you do?
I think as parents we all want our children to be happy and have a good life. The question is: Does that include the struggle?
While we know logically that challenges are part of life, I often find parents NOT wanting their children to experience challenge. We protect them, we help them, we rescue them and sometimes we don’t put in boundaries to avoid them from being upset…because we don’t like it.
What if the challenge, upset, and struggle are necessary?
As successful adults we also know that to get on in life, to progress we need to persevere through the uncomfortable to get to the success. How hard is it for us to persevere when we don’t have all the answers, when we don’t get it right the first time, when we are not even sure how to do something, or when we set goals or resolutions and it is hard to follow through? It takes a lot of effort for us to push through because we have been conditioned to believe that if it is uncomfortable “maybe it isn’t right” or “it should be easier” or “we shouldn’t do it”.
What if we could teach our children a different way of looking at challenge and struggle? If we can get them to enjoy it, embrace it and link it to getting what they want when they are young, they will learn to persevere way easier. We can do this be being aware of what we say to them during their challenge.
Strategy – always acknowledge their challenge so that they feel supported and then make the statement or ask a question. By asking questions you develop a sense of responsibility in them.
Yes I can see this is tough for you, I am here for you (doesn’t mean you give them the solution/or take responsibility for their problem or feeling)
I can see you are upset, what do you need?
I can see you don’t like this, what else could you do?
If children learn to feel that they are supported without being given the answer, it makes the struggle a bit easier. It is important that they learn that they are responsible for the solution. They may not like it at first, but this is when we need to persevere.
If we can change our perspective of love or the way we measure our love for them from how happy they are to being there for them in their struggles and allowing them the space to work it out for themselves, we empower them and build their resilience to challenge.
I believe struggle/discomfort is necessary, it is how we teach them to see the struggle that is vital. When we can teach them to see struggle as an opportunity to learn and grow and it doesn’t define who they are, life’s challenges will be easier for them when they are adults. They will have built their muscle of perseverance.
To do this we also have to change our view of their struggle to mean that we are empowering them and not “letting them suffer”. We must keep reassuring ourselves that this is what will make us good parents and is the road for them to be happy and have a good life.
Strategies to do this:
Teach them that uncomfortable is ESSENTIAL
Allow their negative emotions, acknowledge them, and ask them what they can do.
It is okay to feel uncomfortable. Their feeling does not define who they are. It does not define us as parents. They are the person feeling the discomfort. They are okay if they get it right or not. What do they need? What could they try?
Uncomfortable means that they are brave and courageous and trying something new. Uncomfortable is necessary for them to get what they want. Think of something they have done that was difficult to begin with, maybe riding a bike and remind them that it was hard to start and now how much do they enjoy it.
Teach them to make decisions to persevere in the uncomfortable
We all make decisions during discomfort – what decision do we make? Ask questions and build your children’s awareness of the decisions they make when they find things challenging. Ask them the question: will that get you what you want in the long run? Teach them not to choose comfort over what they want. What can they try to keep going? It sometimes help to break the challenge up. What small step can they try, that is enough.
Allow the gap/time for them to learn
Allow them the space to be uncomfortable and acknowledge them in this space. It’s okay, you can find a way. Don’t feel rushed to get to the result, it is the space when they feel uncomfortable and then work it out, that builds their confidence and perseverance. Our reassurance of them during this time is essential. Our role is for them to feel safe and accepted while they are still learning.
Sometimes it is uncomfortable for us when they don’t get it right quickly, we can then focus our thoughts on what we are teaching them because our being there and letting them learn is what makes us a good parent.
Support them in their learning
Start to notice what you are saying to them during their learning phase. Notice how you are feeling and what it means to you. Support comes when we can separate our needs from their learning. Teach them that trial and error is the process. Encourage them to try something and then discuss the result without expectation. What worked, what didn’t? what else could they try? If you approach with curiosity rather than focusing on the result, they feel safe to try.
When we can approach our parenting from a long term perspective of what they are learning we will develop resourceful happy children
If you have enjoyed this blog or have any questions please send me an email at [email protected]