How do we help our kids feel empowered and capable? How do we give them the agency and space to do great things and the freedom to fail along the way? Especially since as a group, we parents tend to hover. This month The All Good Blog is lucky enough to be joined by bloggers Shannon Mischuk, Angella Dykstra, and Rebecca Brown and child psychologist and author Alyson Schafer.
All Good Blog: Ok guys. Agree or disagree: Empowering kids means letting kids make mistakes?
Shannon Mischuk: Agree!
Angella Dykstra: Agree. That’s how they learn!
Rebecca Brown: I think if parents intervene too much it makes failing as an adult that much harder. Learning to cope with that feeling is important and keeps you grounded
Shannon Mischuk: We all make mistakes, if they think they can’t make a mistake or there’s no grace for one who makes mistakes…that’s not good in my books. Let them make age-appropriate decisions for themselves, good or bad.
All Good Blog: There’s a great article titled “Raising Successful Children”, by Madeline Levine. The article champions the idea of “successful failures”; that is, failures your children can live with and grow from. What are some “successful failures” that have helped you or your kids to learn and develop?
Alyson Schafer: I find the biggest error parents make is in not seeing things as “mistakes that are learning opportunities”. It’s empowering to be given responsibility, to make mistakes, to dust your self off, learn and grow
SM: They’ve seen our mistakes with relationships, finances, etc.…. and they’ve seen us pick ourselves up and keep moving forward.
AGB: So you’re open with your kids about your mistakes?
SM: Yes, and they’ve seen us take responsibility for the errors we made.
AS: Children move in line with your expectations – if you believe in them, they will believe in themselves. We have to de-stigmatize mistakes and give kids a chance to try to learn autonomy and mastery!
AGB: Giving kids autonomy can be scary, can you give us some examples of how you’re doing this with your kids?
SM: My oldest went to Peru when he was 12 for 3 weeks.
AD: Well, my kids are outside right now while I’m chatting with you ladies. We live on acreage, so they won’t be running into traffic or anything
AS: Way to go! Free range kids!
RB: But what about bears?
AD: We finally fenced our property this year. WHEW. They just have to worry about one of our roosters getting out and chasing them. I was cornered by a rooster in the coop recently. Turns out it’s only funny in hindsight…
AGB: Many of us grew up in the ‘70s, when parents tended to be more hands off and kids had greater freedom. Do you think our generation is more self-sufficient as a result?
AS: We’ve sent a message to our kids that the world is not safe and they can’t manage in it. What a sad view to teach a child
We have to reclaim the truth about our communities – they are safer than EVER! 24/7 media is making us all skeptics and cynics – data doesn’t support this
SM: Its not that there is more crime, there’s just more ways to hear about the crime
AS: I miss Mr. Rogers – sigh…
AGB: What about your own childhoods? What made you feel empowered? What made you feel like you could change the world and do anything?
AD: I had my bike! I rode it to school, I rode it to go to the swimming pool, I rode it to my friends’ houses… My first paper route. It was my first job and I loved the freedom of earning my own money to spend.
SM: I’d ride my bike all over. In a new neighborhood, I’d ride over to someone’s house who had kids and knock on the door. Lets play. I had confidence from, a young age. In the school I went to I performed a lot. I also showed horses and I loved doing that. Great confidence boosters.
AS: I had a bunch of very close calls – like taking the wrong bus and getting lost – I could have been in real trouble – but I wasn’t and I have something called “grit”.
What I learned was that if you ask, people help. Be smart, but trust.
SM: I remember taking the bus in grade 1 with my older sister who was in high school (grade 8 or 9).. We fell asleep and got at the wrong bus terminal. We had to figure out how to get home on our own. Kids need to know who to call and what to do if something doesn’t go according to plan and to NOT panic
AGB: So, what are your top tips for helping kids feel empowered?
SM: According to their age, let them make age related decisions for themselves. Good or bad.
AS: I have a quote on my fridge right now ” Life shrinks or expands in direct proportion to one’s courage”.
SM: Guide a child’s will without breaking their spirit
AGB: If kids, specifically YOUR kids ruled the world, what would the world be like?
AD: If my kids ruled the world? There would be a lot of hugs, a lot of laughing, and a lot of farts. (Just being honest.)
AGB: Thanks so much everyone, great chat!
In conclusion, be scared of being cornered by a rooster but not of letting your kids fail. Failure teaches courage and bike riding rules.
So tell us readers; do you think it’s important to let kids fail so that ultimately they can succeed? Let us know!