If the best way to kill off someone talented is give them everything they want, then why are we doing this every day, in every way with our kids? Think about the over-givers, over-praisers and over-reachers.
Over-givers: A child given every game, electronic gadget, article of "cool" clothing and every form of chauffeuring has no reason to strive; they have it all now. They are living the lives of the rich and famous without having to do anything. "What's be the point of trying and striving, or (heaven forbid!) failing at something! I've got it all now!"
Over-praisers: When a naturally gifted child is praised for the smallest of their natural abilities, they learns that it's better to flit from one thing to another, showing off their "natural talent," rather than striving to find what is beyond that gift in the realm of hard-earned mastery.
Over-reachers: Really, does your child have to be the best at everything? What happened to "normal"? (It's very Zen, you know.) If every child had to be the best at everything, we would end up living in the Village of the Damned (the original, of course, not the remake). Do you want that? I would think not!
So, we know which group we fit into -- oops, make that which group our neighbours fit into. Now the question remains: what do we do to avoid this trap?
10 Tips to Nurturing a Self-Reliant Student
1. Feel OK to say no! If children learn healthy limitations, they appreciate what they do get that much more. Sometimes creating something instead of getting something is the best gift of all. They learn to be self-limiting, yet open to infinite creative possibilities.
2. Be consistent. Learning the rules and understanding that they will always be enforced gives a person a sense of safety. Knowing that we do what we say is invaluable.
3. Be accepting. Their choices are supposed to shake you up sometimes. Revel in their individuality! You are here to teach them how to negotiate the world. They are here to teach you about your challenges and the infinite possibilities of love.
4. Admit your own faults and show them how you try to improve on your own imperfections. This will foster in them the idea that it is OK to try things and possibly fail.
5. Give them time to themselves. Walking or going on a city bus to school is a great way to learn independence. Most importantly, playtime without being electronically spoon-fed is quality playtime.
6. A pet that suites their age, maturity and nature (with your help) is a great way to learn self reliance, compassion and unconditional love. Avoid pet stores that buy from puppy mills.
7. Travel! Locally, nationally, internationally; seeing how other people live, eat and socialize teaches young people that there are many ways of doing things and many ideas of how life should be lived.
8. Let them choose their own hobbies -- let your child choose what adventures and learning they wish to pursue, but make sure that that prep time, practice time and learning time allows for a healthy, well-rounded childhood. If the other parents are unkind, find a new hobby.
9. Let them direct one or two things a week; make or design dinner or a game. The best way to learn to follow is to learn to lead.
10. Benign neglect. Give them time to find their own way, choose their own goals, make decisions, learn from their experiences and move on. Let them know that you accept their choices and that your advice is there for them whenever they ask for it.
Our actions almost always come from love for our children... yet... we have to learn to mix our wanting to give with reasonable limits. Plant firmly the seeds in your heart of what you believe your children can achieve without attachment, and let them know that you believe in them. Show them what you see in them and teach by example that making mistakes is the better part of learning.
We are either succeeding or we are learning. Trusting in them to learn and grow is the best gift of all, and it never goes out of style.
Follow Ken Rabow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Mentor4YouthMPW