I recently had the opportunity to curl up and read Drop the Worry Ball: How to Parent in the Age of Entitlement by Alex Russell and Tim Falconer. I really enjoyed reading this book and found that it acts as a good reminder to step back and let your kids be kids.
I think that as parents we can tend to be a overprotective. I know that if I do not pay attention that I can find myself reminding my little one to be careful on the playground, to watch her step, or to look out for this or that. I am not saying that we should step back and let our kids fend for themselves, but I do believe that we have to let our kids learn and explore in safe situations such as climbing at the park. How will they ever learn their abilities if we are always there telling them to watch out for this or that, or helping them as they climb when they are really capable of trying it themselves?
I remember when I was younger I would run out the front door yelling that I was going to play outside as I zipped out. I would go play with friends, climb at the park, play hockey on the street yelling car when one was coming. I learned my abilities and capabilities because my parents let me experience and grow.
Now a days, I find that our lives are so busy that we can end up micro managing everything, including our kids in an attempt to get here and there and everything done. With our micro managing, are we preventing our kids from learning how to manage and be responsible for themselves?
Recently my youngest has been being a little devilish. She has been testing the boundaries a little bit and seeing how much she can get away with. It is the normal testing behavior that I am seeing with all the little ones her age. I had been attempting to deal with this new challenge by telling her what to do. It was not working. Then I read Drop The Worry Ball and it reminded me that I had stopped allowing my daughter to make the right decisions through my telling her what to be doing. I changed my comments such as “I told you….” to “I know you are a big girl and will make the right decision to….” It was like magic before my eyes. As I gave my little one the power to make the right decisions again instead of trying to control the situation myself, she grew as a person and lived up to the empowering situation of taking ownership for her behavior and actions.
Don’t get me wrong, I still let me kids know what I think. I tell them what I think is right and wrong and what I think is the best decision for things, but I do allow them the room to make their decision as long as they are within safe boundaries. I will not let them make decisions that can cause critical situations by any means. Let me give you an example……
My little one is a daredevil. One day she wanted to ride her bike in the skate park as she often does, but on this day she did not want to wear her knee pads as I had been making her. I heard, “Mom no ones else wears knee pads. My friends don’t. You don’t. My sister doesn’t.” She was right. I was bundling her up head to toe because I did not want a scrape on my little angel and the tears that would follow from a scrape. So I looked at her and told her that they help her not get hurt and if she falls without them she would likely end up with scrapes that could hurt. She thought for a second and insisted she did not need the knee pads.
As hard as it was, I let her make the decision to ride in the skate park without knee pads. She needed to test the situation out herself and learn from her own decisions. Did she fall that day? Yes she did and she scraped her knee pretty good. There was blood and tears and me there biting my tongue to prevent myself from saying “I told you so.” I just helped clean her knee and explained it would get better.
The real question is whether or not my little one learned from her knee pad experience. Well she still talks about it to this day and it happened a year ago. She does still ride without her knee pads, but she definitely learned her abilities and the reality that she can get hurt. This has impacted her and makes her think about it when she is playing instead of me having to be by the sidelines thinking, worrying and reminding her about it.
An important point here though is remember that I said I would not let her make the critical decisions. I think it was okay to let her decide to not wear knee pads and end up with a scraped knee. A scraped knee heals. If my little one had said she was not wearing her helmet that would have been a different story. I would never let her decide to not wear her helmet because the consequences could be a serious brain injury. There are times where I do have to make the rules such as wear a helmet or no biking. The important part as a parent is to stop yourself from making all the rules and micro managing your children to the point that they no longer have to make decisions or take responsibility.
Let’s face it, it is human nature to stop thinking and worrying about things that we are not responsible for. If you do not do the laundry in the house, then how often do you think about it? If you are not responsible for making sure the bills are paid in your household then how often do the bills cross your mind? If you are the one that always gets the milk and it is low, what are the chances someone else is going to come home with the milk if you do not ask them? The same thing applies to our kids. If I worry about them being hurt will they even think about it? If I worry about the deadlines for my 18 year old to get registered and set up in College will he even know the dates he needs to pay attention to? The more I take on for my kids, the more I notice they stop worrying about things. This is the opposite that I want if I want my children to grow up to be responsible adults who can organize their lives and deal with their own stresses if life.
So I Drop The Worry Ball so that my children can pick it up and take ownership of their lives, their decisions, and their actions. I stand by the sideline ready to step in when needed with a listening ear and encouragement. As much as I want to say I told you so and to just listen to me…..I bite my tongue and leave them empowered with the experience of the situation.
A couple of facts about the book:
· How to Parent in the Age of Entitlement is an antidote to the traditional parenting book. In its pages, parents will find relief from the stress of parenting in this age of entitlement. The emphasis is on accepting your kids for who and what they are, while putting in place the structure to keep them safe
· Drop the Worry Ball will help parents:
o Understand parent-child dynamics, particularly the way children recruit parents to do too much for them
o Resist the social pressure to become over-involved as this can interfere with children’s emotional growth
o Retire as managers and gatekeepers and become providers of compassionate support
o Build trusting relationships with outside authorities (including teachers, coaches, camp counselors) so they can play effective, authoritative roles in kids’ lives
o Understand the relationship between parent-child dynamics and problems such as ADHD, anxiety and substance abuse
o See failing (tests, courses, tryouts for sports teams) as a normal part of growing up, not a sign of parental incompetence
About the authors
· Lead author — Alex Russell (Ph.D., C.Psych.) is a clinical psychologist who lives and works in Toronto. He earned his Ph.D. from The New School for Social Research in New York and now provides assessments andpsychotherapy to children and adults, and consultation and supervision to schools, teachers and psychologists. A father of two teenagers, he is an active parent in his community and an avid hockey player and coach.
· Tim Falconer is the author of three books-That Good Night: Ethicists, Euthanasia and End-of-Life Care, DRIVE: ARoad Trip through Our Complicated Affair with the Automobile and Watchdogs and Gadflies: Activism from Marginal to Mainstream-all published by Penguin Group (Canada). Since starting out as a freelance magazine writer in 1985, he has won several awards, including a Kenneth R. Wilson Memorial Award and the CIM/NRCan Journalism Award for Feature Writing, and been a finalist for a National Magazine Award.
Drop the Worry Ball is a great read and one lucky MomMomOnTheGo fan will be the winner of a copy of the book. This contest is open to residents of Canada who are over the age of 18.
“Disclosure – I am participating in the Drop the Worry Ball by Mom Central Canada on behalf of Wiley & Sons Canada. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.”