Dr. Michelle A. Navarro, M.A., Psy.D.

Stepping aside and opening up the world of growth and opportunity can begin at any age.

We, as parents, can allow our children the chance to unlock their own internal sense of self-worth. This self-worth and confidence from within is developed throughout our lives as we take in information, process the input, and adapt to the world. However, so often with loving parents, we want to circumvent this vital process for our children in the name of “reducing stress, rescuing from failure, or avoiding negative comments or consequences.” Thus, we pluck the obstacle out the child’s way, and by doing so remove the possibility of learning, adjusting, and possible success. Without strife and struggle, there is no battle or effort; determination is not needed, and success is out of reach. Success and failure is out of reach, because our own fear that our child could fail. The lesson learned it is “we do not trust you or your skills.”

Struggle is vital for success

I am reminded of a story I heard years ago of a young man watching a butterfly try to release itself from its own cocoon. The man watched with anticipation as the butterfly wrestled with his escape. The butterfly fought hard, banging against the strong cocoon. Growing more anxious, the man carefully and gently made a slit in the cocoon and the butterfly was free. The butterfly fell to the ground unable to fly, as it was not strong enough. The strength and endurance the butterfly needed would have come from the process of releasing himself from the chrysalis, but loving intentions and impatience gave way to a weak and unprepared butterfly.

Allowing for opportunity is the first step in creating a successful child.

Move aside and observe your child. Show them in your actions you have faith in their ability to try, adjust, fail, and try again. The message is, “It is okay to take a risk.” Risk-taking, in a safe environment (accepting of failure without shame), is a path to success and leadership. Risking is trying something new without the security of knowing you can do it. This is a form of bravery; it helps boost confidence and self-worth. There will be failures, there will be hurt feelings, tears, and anguish, but your child will also learn to trust themselves and their abilities. And to love themselves…

Developing patience for your child’s skill level awakens the child’s sense that you trust him/her and they can learn to trust themselves.

Patience is not easy to come by as we live in a time-pressured world. A homework assignment, not well managed and due the next day, or a young child trying to tie his shoes while attempting to get him to school on time are examples of the time crunch parents feel daily. Life does not make it easy for parents to stand, watch, and wait for their children. I used to feel (still do sometimes) the need to lecture on “if you would have planned your time better you would not be up all night doing this assignment.” However, if I look at it as my child will do whatever it takes to get the assignment done, I can recognize that it will get done on his time, not mine, but done. But we fear and fear more, “Kids need more sleep, they need to get a good grade or they won’t get into the accelerated class, then they won’t get into a good college, and then they won’t get a good job, and on and on.” Sadly, I have heard many of these arguments as young as kindergarten. Fear interrupts our patience many times more than the actual time on the clock. Fear is often based on a false comparison with others around us; “the should’s and should not’s of parenting”. Knowing your own goal for parenting can help you better understand why you do the things you do. If your goal is to raise a child with self-esteem, able to adapt to new situations, and be successful. Then over-managing them, doing for them when they could learn to do for themselves, and taking away all that is stressful will not accomplish that.

Allowing time to assess your child’s skill level, patience at that level, while looking into your own fear and goals will better help guide your decisions as a parent. Knowing what your child can do and what is just out of reach will assist you in realizing how close they are to attaining their goal. Ponder more about when to step in (ex., is it a safety issue), and when to step back and observe the amazing world of your child and the struggles that can soon become victories and self-love. Self-confidence and self-esteem comes from an internal sense of feeling I am loved and I am okay just the way I am. With words of encouragement (I believe you can), opportunity for learning, and a safe place to fall when things are difficult, we are capable of an exponential world of possibilities.

Feeling safe to try and fail, is an indispensable gift for children and adults, and the pathway to self-confidence and leadership. Allow struggle, risk, failure, and self-adjustment and you will also welcome accomplishment and growth.