Any parent will tell you that parenting is the hardest job in the world. A day spent at home with my kids is more mentally and physically challenging than any day at work. Why? I believe it is my strong emotional connection to my kids. After all, it is my responsibility to fill them with love and help them grow into the best human beings they can be. As parents, it is our nature to give our children unconditional love and kindness. The challenge arises when delineating between loving-kindness and enabling.
“Moooom, WHERE ARE MY SHOES?”
“Moooom, I’m hungry!”
“Moooom, is it time to go yet?”
“Mom? Did you hear me?”
I know I am not the only mother that is exhausted by the end of the day. The constant need for guidance and assistance and attention can be draining. Sometimes, it just seems easier to do things for them rather than teach them to do things for themselves. But is that the loving thing to do? Isn’t empowering more loving than enabling?
Like all parents I love my kids to the moon and back. I want the world for them and I want them to HAVE, DO, and BE everything their soul desires. I realize that I don’t have to HAVE, DO, and BE everything FOR them.
So, where is that fine line between acts of love and enabling (which really is disabling) your child to depend upon you to HAVE, DO, and BE everything FOR them.
By definition, enabling means: give someone or something the authority or means to do something.
There comes a time when you have to choose between giving your children the means to depend upon you or giving them the authority to explore the world independently.
I recently placed a picture in my kitchen to remind myself how to choose between lovingly empowering and enabling my kiddos.
On a picture of my children at the beach, the caption reads: Do not do for others what they can do for themselves.
Now, when I hear, “Mooom….”, I take a moment to ask myself, “Is this request something they can do for themselves?”
If it is something I know they are capable of doing, I do this– I call it Empowerful Parenting:
1. I encourage them by letting them know that I believe in them and their ability to do this task independently.
You are smart and strong I believe that is something you can do for yourself.
2. Then, I challenge them to find a solution.
Hmmm…what ideas do you have to solve this problem?
3. If they tried. I mean really tried. Then I offer choices as suggestions to guide them in their problem-solving.
Have you tried___ or ___?
4. Finally, I offer to help complete the task together. Not FOR them, WITH them.
I am proud of you for trying…let’s see if we can do it together.
If you think about it, when we are recognizing our children’s abilities and supporting and believing in the fact that they can do it for themselves. We are empowering them. That is ultimately loving them.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still “MOOOOM” moments that require my attention. (i.e. I puked in my bed or I want a hug.)
And, if I am being completely honest, I still revert back to the “I’ll do it for you” on occasion. Hey, nobody is perfect, right?
Overall, I am consciously making an effort to EMPOWER my children to trust in themselves and their own abilities, not to depend upon me to magically meet their needs and solve all their challenges.
Presently–and even after my kids are grown-up and moved out of the house–I know there will be those “MOOOOM MOMENTS”. Those moments when my children really do need ME.
In those moments I will follow the advice of my own mother, and “appreciate being needed“.