If you’re like many parents, you want your child to be more successful than you. Just like your parents did. And their parents did.
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The story is as old as time.
But trying too hard to make sure your child experiences success in every endeavor — or “helicopter parenting” — can backfire.
“It is important for kids to succeed and to have good self-esteem,” says pediatrician Amy Sniderman, MD. “But it’s also important for them to experience disappointment, and learn how to work hard and achieve success on their own.“
Small failures are nothing to fear
Of course, every parent needs to keep kids safely away from serious hazards like the stove, the gas line and toxic cleaners.
But, by the time children turn 3, Dr. Sniderman says they can begin learning from the natural consequences of their actions.
“You can’t prevent every cut and bruise. Kids learn a lot from figuring out how to pick themselves up and try again, with support from caregivers,” she says.
Learning from setbacks
Failure can be a good thing for a child. It allows them to think about what didn’t work and why, and come up with a better plan for next time.
“Although it can be hard for a parent to do, it’s far better to help your children learn to use their wings and fly rather than to be their crutch,” says Dr. Sniderman.
Being overly protective and involved can cause frustration once kids hit adolescence. Teens who haven’t figured out how to make their own good choices are more easily swayed by peers. They also may start tuning the helicopter parent out.
Instead, help your child enjoy a sense of pride and accomplishment from their achievements, Dr. Sniderman advises.
“Success is even sweeter when children and teens know they’ve earned it from hard work and persistence — not because mom or dad helped them make the team or get that A,” she says.
The generation gap
In previous generations, children were considered adults between the ages of 18 or 21. That’s when they were expected to leave home and make their own way in the world — at college, in the military or in the workforce.
Today, many young adults live at home and don’t achieve true independence until their late 20s.
Yet always “doing for” your children gets in the way as they search for their own path in life.
“Empowering your kids to be independent thinkers and to problem-solve from the time they are young can help them achieve independence and success as young adults,” says Dr. Sniderman. “That’s ultimately the goal of every parent.”
Never letting kids fail or learn from their mistakes sets them up for major disappointments later on. After all, none of us are successful 100 percent of the time.