Some toddlers whine, asking you to help them to do this and that for them while others are fiercely independent not wanting any help, causing delays and frustration. Each scenario can continue as they grow older with the consequences, good or bad, having more and more leverage on the success and likeability of your child. You need a framework from which to work, a way to evaluate how much assistance you should provide, whether that be putting on their shoes or putting them through college. Simply, you will find yourself always pushing your kids on a swing if you never teach them how to kick.
I don’t worry too much about the independent children, the go-getters. While you may need to put a leash on them so they don’t get too far away from you -- control wise and safety wise, they will learn by trial and error without too much pushing from you. It’s the lazier, less aggressive children you have to watch. While lazier, by no means does that mean less intelligent. In fact, the lazier children can often outsmart you into doing something for them. They know, for instance, when you are impatient. If you want something done and they drag their feet, they know you will do it.
Some examples of things you must help children do.
- Get nutrition
- Learn to talk, walk, all the basics
- Learn values
- Know kindness
- Develop independent thought
- Develop an interest in learning
I discuss some of the more important lessons that should be taught to children in my previous article “What Every Dad Should Teach His Children”
Some examples of things you should NOT do for children
- Anything they can do for themselves (with reasonable exceptions)
- Ignore their mistakes
- Accept weak excuses
So what is the one question every parent should ask of themselves with regard to their children? What question will simplify every decision you need to make when dealing with every child?
Will your help make them stronger or weaker?
It’s a simple question you can apply to any situation. Will your help make them stronger or weaker?
Granted, how you react to the answer may depend on current circumstances and your state of mind. You won’t always make the right decision and that’s okay. However, with this question in your subconscious at all times, you will become expert at molding independent and responsible children!
A Real Life Example
As an example, what about paying your children’s way through college? Ask yourself, “Will this make them stronger or weaker?” the usual answer would ‘yes’! You are helping them to help themselves. It will definitely help them to become stronger in their ability to be independent! But you know your children the best. Maybe they would like to have the college experience but you don’t see them as being serious about furthering their education. If so, you are not helping them move on with their lives thereby keeping them in a negative situation. Paying for college for some young adults is a waste of their time and your money.
Like learning to walk, a child needs help at first, then you must coax them to go it alone. A child with determination, imagination, self-confidence, and experiences will be successful. Those who are sheltered and coddled will fall behind, especially those children who accept it.
In my mind, this question, “Will this make them stronger or weaker?” is one of the smartest ways to simplify your parenting decisions. It may well make your parenting lives more difficult by forcing yourself to do what’s right and standing up for it, but it will certainly help you to raise better prepared, more independent, and stronger citizens. Your personal rewards will come in your later years in the pride you have for your grown children and the freedom you will enjoy not having to constantly bail them out of difficult situations. This important question will not only make your children stronger, it will make you stronger as a parent!
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For more discussion on parenting, especially for dads, check out my book on fatherhood, “The Power of Dadhood, Become the Father Your Child Needs”.