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Take a Closer Look

Sacrificing our needs for the sake of our children has become a badge of honor for many parents, the hallmark of devoted parenting. But such good intentions can harm rather than help, preventing kids from discovering their own ability to solve problems and face challenges. The wise mother in Building Confidence knows that there’s value in not rescuing her son in his time of need. Driving him to his friend’s home to collect his homework might help him in the short term, but he benefits more in the long term by building the confidence that comes from knowing he can do things for himself (see Too Many Helpings).

Our rescue efforts often get in the way of life’s built-in teacher: natural consequences. It’s inconvenient for this boy to cycle to his friend’s home to retrieve his homework. The inconvenience — this is the natural consequence — might teach him to take more care about gathering his things when he leaves the home of a friend. A ride from mom won’t deliver that lesson.

Children sometimes manipulate to achieve their aims. The boy’s words “…a good mother would drive me…” aim to squeeze mom where she’s vulnerable; he knows she takes pride in being a “good mother.” But she doesn’t take the bait, pausing to calm herself and let his comment pass. By ignoring his provocative words, she keeps the focus on the matter at hand and demonstrates that his provocation has no power over her.

We live in an era when many parents embrace the belief that “my children are my highest priority.” The mother in Building Confidence uses this moment to remind her son that his needs are not more important than hers, that they both have needs and she won’t always put hers (for example, getting to work on time) in second place. It’s a reminder that can help him develop humility and a realistic sense of his place in the world.

Watch the video without narration

Talking to Kids You Love is written and created by Aaron Cooper, Ph.D., in collaboration with Marina Eovaldi, Ph.D., and Benjamin Rosen, Ph.D. The project is made possible by a generous grant from The Golub Family Foundation.