We all want what’s best for our children, but sometimes we can be a little too protective, do too much for them, and expect too little from them.
In this interview with Becki Biermaier, who has experienced more than her share of challenges as a little person, we discuss what parents can do to help their children develop resilience and overcome the challenges they face in life.
- [8:05] Pity is dis-empowering. “Until a child knows they can’t, they think they can.” Isn’t that why they jump off the couch wearing a cape? Becki thinks that thinking you can’t, is a learned behavior, or someone tells a child that he or she can’t.
- [9:46] Boundaries and expectations. Becki’s parents observed other parents who would overcompensate for their children’s disabilities, doing many things for their children. They observed that those children were often demanding, and whining. Whereas the firm and loving parents with boundaries, seemed more cooperative. Becki’s parents had the foresight to realize they needed to be more like those parents in the way they raised their children. No pity, and weren’t going to lower their expectations. It’s so easy to feel like if I have high expectations, one also wonder if it’s fair, kind, and reasonable.
- [11:43] Allow our children to experience discomfort and challenges. Here’s the line though. Only you as a parent know the difference between breaking a child’s will, and breaking their spirit. It’s OK if it’s hard. It’s OK that they’re tired. That moment that the child’s voice starts to break though (or you as a parent may know what that moment is for your child), that’s when you can step in and brainstorm with your child, making sure they know you got their back. It still doesn’t mean you have to do it for them, but you can brainstorm together! Becki’s parents taught her really well to ask for help, when she was truly stuck, but encouraged her to get as far as she could. They would often yell, “Give me five more minutes while you keep trying!”
- [13:46] Celebrate progress instead of complaining that our children need our help to complete a task. They would celebrate what Becki did well, for example, “Look how far you got your socks this time! That’s much farther than last time!” And would also acknowledge things like, “I can see how tight those pants are, so I’m going to help you get them the rest of the way.” They would also let Becki do it herself, even when it was easier to step in and do it for her.
- [15:00] “What kids need the most is to do things for themselves, with you telling them they can.” If they think they can get up in the car by themselves and they’re 2, even if it’s easier to lift them into the car seat, let them try! Sometimes it can be hard in this day and age to slow down and give children every opportunity to do things themselves, but kids need TIME to strategize, brainstorm, fail, and try again. Focus on allowing them to, at every opportunity try to do the things they want to do.
- [16:51] Build margin into our schedule so we can slow down and let our children try things on their own. Yes! Giving yourself 15 extra minutes is more peaceful for you and everyone.
- [18:09] Help younger children by promoting their independence and helping them learn that every choice has a result. For preschoolers, it’s about helping them become “overcomers.” Demonstrating natural consequences and how their actions affect themselves and others. “If you choose this, this will happen. But if you choose this, this will happen.” It’s hard to grasp at this developmental stage, but we can help to point it out.
- [21:05] Elementary school age: teach them to brainstorm strategies and think through “if/then” scenarios (and to regroup when they fail or face challenges). Give empowerment back to them, instead of solving problems for them. It demands a lot of patience! Their process is much slower than ours. “You’re a smart kid, I’m sure you can figure out some ideas,” really does build up their problem solving capacity. When they realize you’re not going to solve it for them, they start to figure it out for themselves.
- [23:00] Middle schoolers; reinforce the idea that their decisions impact their results. It’s almost a secondary development of the things they needed to learn in preschool. “I made a choice, and it got me this.” We don’t dial down our parenting the older they get. Pre-teens need a lot of time with parents too. Becki’s parents started taking them on meaningless errands at this age just to get them into the car for “talk time.”
- [23:40] Even though they resist it, middle schoolers need more of your time.
- [25:20] High school; they do more on their own and need a safe space to come to you with questions and issues. Make your home a safe place to come and process. Asking the question, “What would you have done differently?” opens up a conversation without making it shame based. How can you be their safe place to go when they mess up, as opposed to the person they should hide things from?
- [28:15] Overcoming bullying or getting picked on. It’s important not to label them as a victim! Equip the child about what to say and how to respond. They need a go to response that they’ve memorized, like “It sounds like you have a problem with me that you and I can’t solve alone. Let’s go down to Ms. Biermaier’s office and she’ll help us.” This doesn’t make it sound like the child is a victim.
- [31:02] Overcoming learning or social disabilities and challenges. Look for emotional connectedness between the adult and the child. They need us to be the calm ones in times of anxiety. The child needs to feel safe to be where they’re at, and privately get everything together and feel better. Buy them some emotional space time. In the classroom, they don’t want to melt down in front of their friends, or at home in front of company. Give them a reason to excuse themselves and be alone for a bit. Always offer a graceful exit where no one loses face. (This is for older children). For younger children, a “calm it down corner” can be helpful, and anyone in the family can use it! What good modeling if the child sees the parent sitting in the bean bag to calm down. Be the calm one, and create a calm place for kids. Still remember, for any kid who’s facing any kind of label – don’t pity them! Expect them to overcome challenges.
- [37:18] Partner with your child’s teachers & school administration. “How can we help my son with x, y, z?” will help everyone much more than being demanding or disrespectful to teachers and the people who work with your child.
I think we’ll find that as we expect more from our children, build in more time to let them try things on their own, celebrate their wins, and help them regroup after failures, they’ll develop resilience and overcome any challenges that come their way!
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Links & Resources Mentioned
- Becki’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Becki’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTG10qvgLMRSoB9OIc6xNxA