Summer is winding down and we're soaking up the last little bit of it before we send the kids back to school and gear ourselves up for the new academic year.
In the meantime, parents have the option to maximize the benefit of the last few weeks of summer by reinforcing some positive attitudes and skills with their kids.
In this era of helicopter parenting, children aren't getting enough opportunities to develop strong social and academic skills. Kids aren't getting a chance to learn emotional intelligence, perseverance or resilience.
Parents can choose to let the last few weeks of summer slip by or they could use them to develop these incredibly important attitudes and attributes in their kids.
According to Julie Lythcott-Haim, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, children need help from their parents and teachers in growing up to be confident, competent and productive members of society.
In anLA Times interview by Patt Morrison, Lythcott-Haims describes how middle- to upper-middle-class parents have so much fear about all the bad things that could happen to their kids that they overprotect them and deprive them of the opportunity to build self-reliance.
She says that working-class families are too busy trying to pay the bills and put food on the table, so kids from these families aren't overprotected and coddled in the same way. As a result, she says, these kids grow up more capable of functioning at school and in their future jobs.
If you're a parent who finds yourself guilty of over-protecting your kids and doing too much for them, you can start repairing the situation right now. You can decide to take the month of August and teach your kids some key things that will help them to thrive in the coming school year.
My suggestion is give your child an August project. Whatever this is, make sure that your kid sticks with it and completes it so that they have the experience of agency, persistence and confidence.
In the meantime, give your child regular chores to do. Whether it's mowing the lawn, cleaning out the closets or re-varnishing the deck at the cottage, these chores will build a sense of responsibility, inter-connectedness with the family and empowerment.
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Have your older kids babysit the younger ones. This will teach them responsibility, cooperation and empathy. Have the younger ones participate in household chores, showing them that they're important, integral parts of the family.
Also, stop rewarding kids for just showing up. Don't give them a prize for attendance. That's an expectation they ought to meet. Don't reward kids for doing their summer school homework or their chores. Again, these are things they should be doing which ought not be seen as special or meriting an award, but rather, normal parts of life.
Raise your expectations for your kids socially, athletically and academically. Let them know that you respect them and believe in them, which is why you expect more from them.
Also, leave your kids be. Don't take on the responsibility for entertaining them. If they're bored, tell them to figure out what they can do for fun. Provide them with art supplies, books and sports equipment and let them use all these things however they decide to.
Let your kids run around, fall down and skin their knees. Don't rush over with the first-aid kit every time they get a bump or a scrape. Allow them to develop some toughness, both physically and mentally.
By taking the next few weeks to push your kids in the ways they need to be pushed and to back off from them in the ways you need to back off, you'll be giving them a huge advantage in the year to come.
Your kids will be more self-sufficient, confident, competent and resilient. Instead of struggling with insecurity, inadequacy, feelings of being overwhelmed and social difficulties, they'll meet the new school year with the skills and attitudes guaranteed to see them thrive.
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