Many parents neglect and wipe out their children’s problems. We are often so busy, so stressed, so overwhelmed by the realities and necessities of life that Mary’s failed spelling test or Johnny’s fight on the playground seem unimportant, uneventful and one more drain of energy.
Some parents feel that children need to solve their own problems. They declare that only by taking responsibility for themselves will Johnny and Mary deem to be independent, successful adults.
Sometimes we feel that our children will learn best if we give them the answers. “Johnny hit you. Go out and hit him back.” “Mary didn’t invite you to her birthday party. Don’t invite her to yours.” “You failed your math test. We’ll get you a math tutor.”
All of these strategies are not productive. If we ignore problems, children feel abandoned, dismissed, unimportant, unattended to, alone, scared and often helpless because they don’t know the answers.
If we insist they find their own answers, they might find harmful ones like ignoring problems, acting on their feelings or copying unsuccessful peers.
If we give them answers, they will feel that only we have the answers; they know nothing and what they feel and think doesn’t matter.
So, how do we proceed?
- First, we let children know that problems are normal. Everyone alive has problems – physical, emotional, practical.
- We let them know that problems are solvable.
- We teach that in order to solve the problem, we have to understand the problem. “What happened in the fight between Mary and Susan? How did it start?” — “What is hard for Tom in math class? What doesn’t he understand? What makes it hard for him to remember to take out the garbage?”
- Once we have a better understanding of the problem, we help the child explore strategies. Together with the child we think of possible ways to approach the problem for a favorable outcome.
- The child chooses a strategy that he feels will work.
- We applaud the choice and let them know that if the strategy chosen doesn’t work, we can always revisit the problem and try again.
Ongoing repetition of this process will help children feel capable, powerful and able to cope.
Miriam Kove is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist who has worked with parents, children, individuals and couples for 30 years.
She was born in Bassarabia, raised in Canada and has lived in New York City since attending theater school in 1962. She has worked in theater off and on for many years but her primary passion and primary career has been as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. For 20 years, she specialized in seeing children and parents. Presently, she works with adults and couples and supervise therapists who work with children.
Her mission is to begin a dialogue on the critical importance of parenting and the necessity for people to acquire knowledge, both internal and external, that will allow them to raise healthy, loving children.
For more information visit MiriamKove.com