Here’s Why You Can Find Freedom in Worrying Less About Your Kids, According to Experts
So much can go wrong in the process of raising successful children, but there’s also a place for keeping things in perspective and cutting yourself–and your kids–some slack.
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If you're a parent there's probably no other area of your life which requires so much investment--financially, physically and emotionally. There's just so much which can go wrong in terms of safety, socialization, academics and the potential for negative or risk-taking behavior. But there's also a place for keeping things in perspective and cutting yourself--and your kids--some slack. Here's what experts have to say on the subject.
1. Chill out about Fortnite.
There's good reason more than 125 million people play the game: It's superbly designed. Plus, Andrew Kinch and Nir Eyal, writing for VentureBeat, point out that it fills needs many kids don't get in real life. Apparently, experts have determined that people need three things to do well in life: competency, autonomy and relatedness, all of which can be gotten playing Fortnite. It takes time and effort to get good at it (competency). It's a cartoonish world in which kids can look and behave however they want (autonomy). And chatting and socializing with teammates is a huge part of the experience (relatedness). Knowing this is good for parents who can look for opportunities to help fill these gaps in other ways, without dissing the beloved game (which will never accomplish anything).
2. Let them do scary things.
Anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common psychiatric disorder among young people. Researchers have found that parents who overprotect their children may actually be contributing to the problem. It's because experimenting with great heights, high speed, potentially dangerous tools, rough-and-tumble activities and exploring on one's own keeps kids alert and gives them a sense of mastery. It turns out that doing things like catapulting off a rope swing, sliding down a steep hill or play-fighting have anti-phobic effects. Think it's a hard premise to swallow? Try to recall being a kid yourself and how good it felt to ride a merry-go-round at a dizzying speed or climb a tree without any supervision. There's something to that feeling of holding on tight--and not getting hurt--which builds confidence.
3. The odds are in favor of your child growing up to be OK.
What's the likelihood of the worst-case-scenarios coming true when it comes to your child's future? Michael Delman, M. Ed., in his book Your Kid's Gonna be Okay points out that executive function skills--being able to manage oneself so as to overcome obstacles and achieve goals--continue to develop until the age of 30. So, it helps to think of your child as a sapling you planted. He writes:
We wouldn't ask ourselves, "Hmm, how come they didn't improve at all since yesterday?" Those trees take time to grow, and simply need to be given the right kind of nourishment to reach their potential. For our children, our patience, kindness and encouragement will pay better dividends than constantly wringing our hands and telling them how anxious we are about them.
Delman says that burdening kids with unrealistic expectations--such as getting all As or trying their hardest in school--can be anti-motivating. Statistically speaking, not everyone can be the best in a class and it doesn't make sense for your child to give 100-percent of their energy toward every single activity they're involved in. Your job as a parent is not to motivate your child with bribes or threats, but to find what moves them intrinsically, and then allow them to strive to their fullest selectively.
Delman advises resisting the urge to be dismissive if you're child's passion is something you're not trilled about, such as video games. Dig into what it is they enjoy about it, such as solving problems, collaborating with others or competing. Armed with this knowledge, you'll be better equipped to make connections as to how they can use those skills in other activities or contexts.