I’ve been in Malaysia for the past week now and have had the opportunity to speak to many parents during my meet ups at a school and at several private events. This trip has been unique as I got a rare opportunity to work with lots of parents of older children (aged between 10-15) and although I specialise in working with children under 7 years, I do have two boys who are almost 9 and 12 years and I have to admit that working with parents of children of these ages, has been a real eye-opener to me. During this past week, I’ve listened to their worries, concerns and the nightmares that keep them up at night and it seems like there is a common theme that emerges from all these discussions……..and as one parent put it very frankly: “I worry that my child will not make it when I’m gone!”
Parents whom I spoke to expressed their overwhelming concern about how their children give up too easily when they are put under pressure (and are dependent on their parents to pester them into taking up the challenge), how they are not able to make friends or to handle conflicts when they are with their peers (and they get upset, discouraged and disappointed with every attempt), how they are lacking in a sense of responsibility (and many still needed their parents to hunt down their personal belongings that they had misplaced in school), how they lack the motivation to be engaged in their studies (and had to be either threatened or coaxed or have a carrot dangled in front of them perpetually to get them to finish any work), how they lack a sense of self-confidence (and constantly doubt themselves and shy away from opportunities to challenge themselves)…….
I hear the cries of these parents and it saddens me because these are a bunch of very engaged parents……they are not parents who don’t care about their children nor are they parents who neglect their children. Rather, these are parents who are proactive and who are there for their children every step of the way. So …….if they are super proactive and engaged, then why is it that their children are so insecure and unhappy? Why is it that they are not equipped with the skills to thrive? Why don’t they have the motivation to challenge themselves and to spread their wings? Why aren’t they resilient?
Here’s why. Have you heard of helicopter parenting? This is what it is! I know I hate ‘classifying’ parents but this is primarily what it is…..parents who are proactive, dedicated and engaged, but who are doing a lot of things that they think are for the good of their children but whose efforts are not only counterproductive but are detrimental to their children’s development of important life skills, grit, resilience and soft skills…… the vital traits of happy people who are successful in life and relationships.
I feel really bad for these parents because I know that whatever advice I share with them will likely require 1000x effort simply because these children are past the formative years. As I have always said, the formative years (0-6 years) are the best for building a strong foundation for the children to learn important life skills and for preventing inappropriate behaviours. The formative years are also when young children are most responsive to their environment and we can significantly improve children’s behaviors by making changes to their environment. However, once this period has passed, ‘preventive’ measures are no longer effective and parents will need to use ‘corrective’ measures which will require a lot of effort on their part because they will need to start changing the environment which their children have spent more than a decade being accustomed to. In such conditions, change is often not as effective and quick as with families with younger children.
I must say that having two boys around that age, I’m really, really glad that they turned out great! My boys are bashful but when the time comes, they will stand in front of a crowd and speak their mind with confidence, they are extremely responsible and take care of themselves and their belongings, they are extremely great with younger children and more so with working in groups with peers. They have good social skills and they have mastered a few conflict resolution skills that serve them well when they are networking and synergizing groups, they are also self-motivated when it comes to learning and I’ve never had to check on their homework and most importantly, they are problem solvers and risk takers and often try new things to challenge themselves further, they have been exposed to entrepreneurial skills and have gotten the hang of it. I often tell my friends and audiences I speak to at conferences that should anything happen to me, I’m 100% confident that my boys will be able to function well and thrive even in my absence.
Here’s an important note to consider, my boys are not ‘born’ this way! I have spent many years cultivating and scaffolding them using strategies that are grounded in applied child developmental psychology and that has allowed me to be extremely focussed with my approach……..thus avoiding the dilemma (and symptoms) of helicopter parenting. The thing is, besides the first 6 years that I’ve spent really working with my boys to lay that foundation, I have also invested a considerable amount of time learning to be a specialist in this area…….I am so fortunate to have been in the early childhood education industry for 16 years, to sink in 6 years into my training and professional development, to have lectured and mentored trainee early childhood educators for the past 12 years and worked as a parenting consultant for the past decade. All the time I spent building up my career has directly benefited my own boys……and by making myself available to both teachers and parents, you can also tap into my expertise and learn to do what I can do in a fraction of the time that it took me!
Listening to the parents of older children, the only solace that I can offer to all of you (if you have children under the age of 6 years) is to not wait too long before you learn applied child developmental psychology or you will fall into the trap of helicopter parenting your children and the outcomes will be no different to the ones that many parents whom I work with, are experiencing. If you are wondering about what applied child developmental psychology is about or where you can learn more about it, fret not, I will be launching my Inner Circle For Parents in May and will be sending out my free video training series, so do keep an eye out for my free video training, coming your way soon!
If you would like to be notified about the next Inner Circle intake or to sign up for the free video training series, please register here and you will be notified when it’s ready:)