Tag Archives: letting go

In Times of Tragedy…
time of tragedy

The nature of tragedy is that it is out of our control. Ultimately so is just about everything. The nature of parenting is the desire to maintain control. The irony is that in order to best handle times of tragedy and to best maintain influence over our children, we first need to let go of that desire to control.

Instead we tell them what to think and feel, what to say and do. Everything around us tells us that if we do this, take that, wear this and buy that, we will be happy. Rewards and punishments are the way we control and tell them how to be. This method raises our children to focus externally (what will happen to me if…? Or what will I get if…?). They often don’t know how to handle themselves without those external controls. Most of us have lost sight of what we already know — if we could trust ourselves to just listen.

In order to stay calm, do our best work, and have the greatest influence on those around us, we must stop trying to control others. Nobody likes a dictator. Children are no exception. In working with parents all over the world, I find that nothing is harder for parents to do than let go of control.

When tragedy strikes, we try to protect our children from worry and fear. When my daughter was four she was afraid of fire. One Sunday the house next door burned to the ground. My first instinct was to close the door of the room she was in to insure she did not see the fire. Immediately, I realized the futility, and so I carried her to the window to watch. She wanted to get as close as I would allow. She was mesmerized and asked lots of questions over days and months that I answered honestly. The experience helped her through and over her fear, to know it was not the end of the world. It helped her to feel less afraid.

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The Gift of Letting Go

A question and answer in my last newsletter resulted in the following responses from both parents with such an inspiring story, I had to share it. I think everyone, no matter how old your children are, can gain from this. Letting go can be the hardest job in parenting. I thank these parents for their responses to me and permission to share this with all of you.

Q. My 18yo high schooler has been getting $10 a week since he was very little for spending money. I used to give his brother (12) and sister (9) the same, but now we are not doing well financially and they relinquished theirs last year. The 18yo has refused to give up his weekly $10. After he got his license, using our car (which we insure and pay gas for), he got a bank card and an account, and told me to direct deposit the $10. He started buying Starbucks coffees and snacks and told his dad that he had to pay for it. Which his dad did. His dad and I agreed to give him $5 more per week with the understanding he would by his snacks. Recently he overdrew his bank account and then came “crying” to us to help. I said I would advance his allowance once, and that I would not rescue him again. Now he has overdrawn again. I feel financially strapped not to mention he is never grateful but demands the money as his “right.” Giving him the money, when his sibs get nothing, and rescuing him makes me feel angry with him 24/7. He never helps around the house – says “maybe later” which never comes, says it’s my “job” to make him meals and is generally nasty to all of us. I feel guilty about not knowing what is “reasonable” to give him. Should we give him any money at all? Is that our “responsibility”? If so, how much? We already pay for his food, including special requests, gas, car (he uses our newest and safest car whenever he likes), car insurance, his clothes, heat bill, electric bill, phone bill, housing. Help!! This is just going to get worse this summer (he has no plans at all) and next year in college.

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How Much is too Much: Are you a Toxic Parent?

Many of today’s parents fear that if they don’t give their children the right push out of the crib, they will not make it in this world of high-powered over-achievers. The fear is that anything less than a Harvard post-graduate degree will leave our children on the corner asking for spare change. The days of sending kids out to play to fend for themselves for hours on end are long gone. Instead we register our kids for music, French, math and gymnastics classes before they can walk trying to give them the edge.

Multiple research studies have shown that parents who hold firm but nurturing standards and let go enough to give their children autonomy raise children who do better academically, psychologically, and socially than either over-involved parents who push their children toward achievement or under-involved and permissive parents who set too few limits.

Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University studied children’s motivation by giving them simple puzzles they had no problem putting together. Some were told how smart and capable they were, others were not told anything. The ones who were left alone were more motivated to try more difficult puzzles and showed more confidence in their progress and ability.

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