‘Helicopter parenting’ or ‘she’ll be right’? What – if any – emotion-coaching do our children need?
It’s a very popular and seductive parenting stance to take – ‘she’ll be right; he’ll grow out of it; they’ll work their way through it and come out ok’. And they may do just that. And they may not.
Given the identical situation, one child may work his way through it well and build good character from the experience. Another may be handicapped by it, because his or her emotional makeup simply did not have that particular quiver in supply. So applying that stance can work in one particular situation, but may be detrimental in another.
I don’t think any of us would argue the notion that our emotions and personality traits drive our choices and therefore what becomes of us. Lack of confidence, for example, might cause us to under-perform at a job interview or assessment task and cost us what may have been a life-shaping opportunity. Resilience may help us bounce back from a setback that might have crippled someone else. Each outcome, in turn, produces a ripple effect, which carries through the years of our lives.
It is tempting to think that our children will ‘be right, mate’ – that they’ll learn these skills naturally as they go through school and as they absorb the values we try to instill at home. After all, we did, didn’t we?
Yes we did develop skills that we have been able to use to help us make better choices in life. But we each of us also struggle in other areas, with those personal skill deficits that have caused us to make the choices we are not so glad of. This is because we are each born with our own unique set of emotional strengths and weaknesses, which explains why in some areas of our lives “she’ll be right” works well, while in others, it can be the worst approach to take.
Our children are no different, which is why, as we all know, the same approach does not work in the same way for each child. That is where emotional intelligence teaching comes in. By addressing seemingly small areas of personal struggle now, while our children are still developing, we can make a difference that lasts them the rest of their lives. Addressing the little ‘molehill’ now can ward off a mountain later.
In my sessions with children, I point out to them that they are in a unique – in fact, once-in-a-lifetime – position. Their ’emotional habits’ and beliefs are still in development, still not set in stone, and small efforts now can reap a lifetime of benefits. As adults, we know how difficult it can be to change old ways of thinking and behaving – old emotional habits. But we can help our children develop the best habits they possibly can, thereby setting them up for a life dotted with much better responses and choices.
The critical parenting choice, then, is about knowing where your child is in terms of their emotional skills – which ones they need help with and which ones are better left for them to practise skills they already have.
That’s what this blog and website are all about. They can help you and your children enjoy a happier, healthier life, full of the successes that really count.