Over­re­act­ing moms don’t make for con­fi­dent chil­dren

Be a coach, not a player in your kid’s life

North Toronto Post - - Kids - JOANNE KATES

I ran into a male friend, 45ish, last week, and he told me a story that made him sad.

His wife was drop­ping their 10year-old daugh­ter off at school. She saw the other girls turn their back on her daugh­ter. She called her hus­band, cry­ing.

Now he’s up­set, for two rea­sons. One, ob­vi­ously he’s wor­ried about his daugh­ter.Two, he asked his wife if their daugh­ter saw her cry­ing and she said: “Of course, she looked at me in the car and saw me burst into tears.” So now he’s also up­set be­cause their daugh­ter saw her mom cry­ing.

We know, as par­ents, that our kids con­stantly (of­ten covertly) check on our re­ac­tions to their life events.

This is such a Catch-22. In this fam­ily, as in many, mom does most of the parenting. Has she lost per­spec­tive? Kinda.

Would she have more per­spec­tive if dad shared the parenting? We can only guess.…

Also last week, I talked to two moms who used the word “dev­as­tated” in ref­er­ence to things that had hap­pened to their kids.

One was be­ing put in a dif­fer­ent class from her old friends and the other was not get­ting in­vited to a birth­day party.

Both con­cerned me. Then my own daugh­ter re­minded me of the times I phoned the school to ad­vo­cate for her when she was strug­gling.

Two decades later and she’s still bring­ing this up — not in a flat­ter­ing light. What she means is: You were a drama queen too. I was. It’s re­ally hard, as a mom, not to over-iden­tify with our kids, not to ex­pe­ri­ence their hurts as our hurts, not to feel ouch at their boo­boos, both phys­i­cal and emo­tional.

Let’s imag­ine that I had been able, in those hard mo­ments in my daugh­ter’s early life, to be more of a coach and less of a player.

What if, when she suf­fered, I’d said: “What do you want to do about this?… How do you think you might get there?” And: “I be­lieve in you, and I’m pretty sure you can fig­ure out how to solve this prob­lem. Do you want to talk it through with me?”

Would I have raised a more con­fi­dent and re­source­ful child?

And what is the cost when we over-iden­tify with our chil­dren and feel their hurts as our hurts … and let them see that we’re hurt­ing for and with them?

I think the costs are quite high. When we do that, we tele­graph to them that we too are wounded by their strug­gle, which un­for­tu­nately makes them feel less safe in the world — be­cause one of the things kids need most is to per­ceive their par­ents as strong and able.

When they see us as wounded, es­pe­cially about some­thing per­tain­ing to them, it scares them. Our vul­ner­a­bil­ity about them pulls the rug out from un­der their feet.

An­other cost is how our emo­tional dis­play makes them feel about them­selves in the sit­u­a­tion.

In their minds it plays some­thing like: “Wow, mom is re­ally up­set about this. That must mean it’s re­ally big and bad. And it sounds like she doesn’t think I can han­dle it, or she wouldn’t be so up­set.”

So we have, un­awarely and un­in­ten­tion­ally, com­mu­ni­cated, one, that their prob­lem is huge and aw­ful, and two, that we don’t have con­fi­dence in our child to han­dle it.

Not ex­actly a recipe for grow­ing con­fi­dence and re­silience in our kids.

So what do we do when our kids’ bumps ’ n’ bruises, both phys­i­cal and emo­tional, tear at our heart?

First we have to re­mem­ber not to bur­den them with our emo­tional re­ac­tion, to keep our feel­ings pri­vate — from them.

Un­load on your spouse or a friend. Around the kids, project equa­nim­ity and con­fi­dence in their re­source­ful­ness.

Some­times in parenting, it’s as sim­ple as: What we ex­pect is what we get.

Kids may ben­e­fit more from solv­ing their prob­lems with less parental in­ter­fer­ence

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