A man spotted a chrysalis on a milkweed plant in his garden. After a few days, a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. The man decided to help the butterfly; he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the chrysalis. The butterfly emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its short life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting chrysalis and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the chrysalis.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly. Just like the butterfly, our children need struggles/ challenges to strengthen them. Without any obstacles, they won’t discover their strengths/abilities and may even be crippled.
As much as we realize as parents the importance of allowing our children to work through challenges, this is one of the most difficult things to do—standing by as our child or even young adult struggles without stepping in to help. Without thinking about it, we spend a lot of energy every day controlling (or trying to control) our children—telling them what to eat, how quickly to get dressed, how to comb their hair, what friends they should have, how to chew their food, how to sit properly at the table, what they should do in their spare time, what they should study in school, what career they should have, how to raise their own children and so much more!
When we control our children’s choices too much, we do prevent some of their mistakes, but the consequences are serious. By controlling them, we can cause them to become dependent, weak, unloved, unhappy, angry and rebellious. So, what can we do? Children gain experience, wisdom and strength by making their own choices, struggling through their decisions and learning to live with the consequences—both the good and the poor ones.
We can share control with our children by giving lots of choices, even from a young age. “Would you like juice or milk for lunch?” “Will you wear your red or your blue shirt today?” “Shall we leave the park now or in 15 minutes?” “Will you do your homework before or after playing outside?” With older children, asking questions can help them think through a problem without telling them what to do. If a child is particularly frustrated, we might saw, “Would you like some ideas that other people have tried?” And it is always supportive to communicate that as the parent, “I believe in you—I know that you can figure this out. Let me know if you get stuck.”
Join in the 3 week webinar series starting Monday, August 6 “Raising Resilient, Happy, Successful Individuals” where we will be discussing more ways to guide and support our children in developing their own self-efficacy and taking good care of own selves at the same time. Click below for more details.
During early childhood, children start to develop a self-concept. Between 18 and 30 months of age, they can begin to describe themselves as a boy or girl, happy, sad, taller/shorter than someone else. Much has been written and discussed about how children develop self-esteem—a judgment of one’s worth and the attributes, abilities, attitudes and values that help define it. It is understood that self-esteem comes from several sources: the relationship with parents and other family members, school ability, athletic ability, friendships, relationships with teachers, coaches and peers as well as from the child’s own temperament.
Less is known or understood about self-efficacy—the belief that one’s own actions lead to outcomes. Parenting experts are now saying that self-efficacy is as important as self-esteem. For our children to develop their own sense of self-efficacy, they must have the experience of doing the thinking, planning, hoping, trial and error, dreaming and experiencing for themselves as they grow up. As parents, we love our kids so much we want to protect them and help them become perfect, happy human beings. Sometimes this over-parenting can have the opposite effect, leaving our kids unready for the world and life as adults.
Julie Lythcott-Haims, author and TED Talk speaker, served as the Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising for more than a decade at Stanford University. She says, "We have the very best of intentions, but when we over-help our children, we deprive them of the chance to learn these really important things that it turns out they need to learn to be prepared to be out in the world of work, to get an apartment, to make their way through an unfamiliar town, to interact with adults who aren't motivated by love.” Her a-ha moment came in 2009 after telling parents at Stanford's freshman orientation to allow their kids to spread their wings, she came home for dinner and found herself cutting her 10-year-old son's meat.
"That's when I got the connection," she says. "When do you stop cutting their meat? When do you stop looking both ways for them as they cross the street? These are all things that we're doing to be helpful, protective and so on, but if you've sheltered your 18-year-old all the way up to 18 by doing all of those things, then they end up bewildered out in the world.” To listen to Ms. Lythcott-Haims’ TED Talk, click link:
So, how do we as parents help our children to develop a strong self-concept, positive self-esteem and self-efficacy? It takes awareness, practice and intention on our part as parents and some tools that help us gain the skills we need. One important thing is to ask leading questions instead of telling our child the answer or what to do. Real Love with Greg Baer introduces the Law of Choice as a function of growth and an essential ingredient in any loving relationship. Love and Logic uses the concept of sharing control through choices. Examples are:
These topics will all be part of the three-week parenting webinar series “Raising Resilient, Happy, Successful Individuals” that I will be facilitating beginning Monday, August 6 at 9 pm EST. The webinar will include skill practice, modeling and homework to be practice between sessions. For more information/to register go to Webinars To make sure that you receive these weekly articles and updates, subscribe to my newsletter at the top of the page.
Traditions and rituals create family cohesion, comfort and security. They often tell a story about our family and they help us to focus our lives around experiences rather than things creating greater lasting happiness. Traditions help teach our children where their family came from or give them insights into their cultural or religious history.
Growing up, we had a family whistle that could be easily heard above the noise of a crowd. Inherited from my mother’s family, it was known as the Nyce whistle--my mom’s maiden name--and it helped us find each other on many occasions. Although this might not seem like a family tradition, it was something unique to our family.
Many family traditions center around holidays—special foods, getting and decorating the Christmas tree, setting up the menorah, and eating turkey at grandma’s home. Birthday celebrations can include special traditions that make the day special for the birthday child. Traditions can include eating their favorite food together, making time to share heartfelt appreciations about the child over the birthday dessert and measuring them on the growth chart to see how much they have grown. One of my son’s birthday tradition was always having a pumpkin pie instead of a traditional cake.
In my family, camping was another family tradition--one that we continued with our own boys. There is something special about sitting around a campfire with no lights except a lantern on the picnic table and the stars overhead. It was magical to discover aspects of nature that we usually rush by in our daily life. It was also a tradition that we took turns cooking meals and cleaning up afterwards in pairs. Another aspect of camping that I loved was the natural opportunity to disconnect from electronics and spend more time talking together or playing board games.
Author, speaker and storyteller Bruce Feiler wrote “6 Things the Happiest Families Have in Common.” He was asked what he would recommend as the most important advice he had for families. His answer? “Set aside time to talk about what it means to be a part of your family. Sit down with them and say ‘Okay, these are our ten central values.’ ‘This is the family we want to be. We want to be a family that doesn’t fight all the time.’ or ‘We want to be a family that goes camping or sailing’ or whatever it might be. When my family did it, it was literally a transforming experience. We ended up printing it and it hangs now in our dining room.” In other words, make a family mission statement--something Steven Covey strongly advocated as a way to strengthen the family through identifying values and traditions.
Family traditions help to create lasting memories that children remember and continue with their own families. What are some of your family traditions? Taco Tuesdays? Taking evening walks after dinner? Favorite bedtime routines? For some inspiration and new ideas, check out “60+ Family Tradition Ideas” by Brett & Kate McKay. www.artofmanliness.com/articles/60-family-tradition-ideas/
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my website, click on the link above to check out the various services that I offer. Starting on Monday, August 6th, I am offering a three week webinar “Raising Resilient, Happy, Successful Individuals.”