Self-esteem was the buzzword of the ’90s. We couldn’t get enough of telling our children how great they were. Today, self-efficacy, the belief in our abilities to complete tasks and reach our goals, has shown to have more importance in determining our child’s success. While self-esteem is paired with our perceptions of self-worth, self-efficacy is our understanding of our personal abilities.
Thoughtful Parenting: Youth Services
This weekly column about parenting issues is written by area youth-serving professionals. It publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.
As parents, we don’t want our children to ever feel badly, so we do everything we can to mitigate the situation. We request specific teachers for our child every year. We call the school to question our son’s grades. We cushion the falls and soften the blows, all the while, sending the message that our kids aren’t able to handle the challenges in front of them.
At Love and Logic, we call this the helicopter parent. Today, we have the latest model — the special-forces, turbo version — hovering around. These parents are everywhere, especially in affluent communities. As Dr. Madeleine Levine points out in her book, “The Price of Privilege.” Helicopter parents make all the decisions for their children, yet find themselves overburdened with the work the child has caused them. This sends the message to your child of low personal worth and weakness.
The drill sergeant parent, on the other hand, also sends the message of low personal worth and weakness. This is usually done through commanding and directing the lives of children. You will see them take ownership of their child’s problems by using threats and orders to solve them. Pain and humiliation usually serves as a teacher for children of drill sergeant parents.
The most successful parent, who can instill a sense of self-efficacy in their child, is the consultant parent. Just as you would imagine, the consultant parent tries to reflect most of the decisions and responsibility onto the child. They use few words and lots of actions to let natural consequences serve as the teacher, and allow the child to figure it out on his or her own. Their main response is usually — “I don’t know. What do you think?”
By making a conscious decision to be a consultant parent, you are allowing your child to go through the natural highs and lows of life. Many of us can reflect to middle school being the “suckiest” time of our lives. Yet when parents intervene to soften the middle school turbulence, children never feel the extraordinary highs they would get when they’ve overcome their challenges. This is why many adolescents complain of feeling empty and lack practical skills for navigating the world. Or they may resort to self-mutilation, depression, risky behavior and substance abuse.
While there are certainly times it is necessary to intervene, educated parents know when they’re guiding their kids to solve their own problems and allowing them to take ownership of situations. With the proper technique and guidance, you are providing them with the most important task of childhood and adolescence: autonomy.
Beth Wendler and Heather Martyn have started the Parent2 Partner training series, which offers the Parenting the Love and Logic Way workshop. On April 4, their next six-week series will be offered for parents of children age 5 and older. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.