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Parenting and Self-Reliant Children

The well thought of “Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World” by Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen provides a great road map with elements or building blocks for developing capable young people. In his 2018 article in Psychology Today Jim Taylor identified 5 essential life tools that help children become more self-reliant. The elements from both sources are listed below – what do you notice?

In both resources they emphasize the importance of the parent being the parent. Our primary role is not the friend, coach, or buddy. If we are not their parent, then they are not allowed to be the child, and dysfunction follows. Critically, as we play the role of parent the child does not feel as much inclination to allocate that necessary role to someone else e.g. a friend, older role model at school, or clique/gang member.

“The Yes Brain” by Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson shares 3 well researched characteristics of the “yes” brain, and since opposites can be instructive, 3 characteristics of the “no” brain. The “Yes” brain is ready to learn, engage, and face trials with resilience. Can you see how this will be an advantage as an adult as well? First, the “Yes” brain.

  • Flexible, curious, resilient, willing to try new things and even make mistakes.

  • Open to the world and relationships, helping us relate to others and understand ourselves.

  • Develops an internal compass and leads to true success because it prioritizes the inner world of a child and looks for ways to challenge the child’s whole brain to reach its potential.

Now for the “No” brain (do you ever see this in your own children, yourself, or others?).

  • Reactive and fearful, rigid and shut-down, worrying that it might make a mistake.

  • Tends to focus on external achievement and goals and not on internal effort and exploration.

  • Might lead to gold stars and external success but does so by rigidly adhering to convention and the status quo and becoming good at pleasing others, to the detriment of curiosity and joy.

As children go through their stages of growth and maturity their “executive” brain is not fully developed until the late teens or early 20s. As parents we must be very patient with them and help them maintain balance as that part of their brain develops. They may literally not be able to control themselves at times and recognizing that and keeping our cool is essential. I remember the first time our oldest daughter stopped dead in her tracks at the grocery store and proceeded to scream at the top of her lungs (she was about 4). It was embarrassing, but not life threatening. We are not perfect parents either, so some patience and self-kindness for our own faults is important.

No blog post is going to be able to share all you need to know when it comes to raising children. My intent here is not to give you a simple check list (:o – raising children by checklist!???). I hope this post does provide you some examples of what the ideals are, spurs your continued thinking, curiosity, and encourages you as you strive to be the best parent you can. I encourage you to check out the resources below and sincerely wish you the best in the most challenging and important role you will ever have – a parent.


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