Continuing with my theme of travel metaphors, this week I'm using the image of back seat drivers. If you've ever driven with one, you know how irritating that can be. Have you ever been one? If so, then you may not know. A back seat driver is not in control of the vehicle but thinks he knows more about the route, how to drive, or just about anything than the drivers does. It's someone giving unsolicited advice. It's maddening.
How does this apply to our children? When they were born they were incapable of controlling anything, but before long they learned to control their gaze, their limbs, their vocal chords. They began to put food in their own mouth. Later they learned to control bodily functions. Soon their abilities to do things accelerated and they could dress themselves, put toys away, keep quiet when it was polite to do so, and much more.
Unfortunately, some of us yearn for the days when our children were younger and want to keep them permanently suspended in youth by controlling every aspect of their lives. We become back seat drivers for them. We do things for them that they are perfectly capable of doing. The first thing we must realize is that we are doing it for ourselves even though we claim to be doing it for them. They want to become independent; we want to keep them dependent. We may even have taught them to pretend they want our help. It's called learned helplessness.
As parents we have to constantly ask ourselves what is realistic for our children. Trying to make them do things they cannot do will only frustrate them. Likewise preventing them from doing things they can do will also frustrate them. There's no perfect answer. Just test the waters to see what they can and are ready to do.
Children naturally want to grow up and become more independent. We owe it to them to let this process proceed.
Blessings on your parenting,
Tim Miesner, Principal