Mom and Daughter working together at a desk

Connecting: Empowering or Over-Protecting?

Where did this year go?

Some months flew by too fast, and others not fast enough.
Kinda, feels confusing, right?

This post is about something that tends to confuse parents—Connecting: Is it empowering or over-protecting?

I love Brené Brown. Her books are transforming the pathway back to ourselves.
She says that connection is,

                      “The energy that exists between people when they
feel seen, heard, and valued…”

What I’m sure she is not saying is that connection means protecting your child from experiences that are difficult.

These days many parents have misinterpreted what remaining connected means in parenting.
Many parents try and pave the way for their child to make things easier. But is that really helpful when you look at the big picture?

Let me ask you this.
Do you plan to sit beside your child all day in 4th grade?
In 7th grade?
In 11th grade?
In college?

Will you be there to make sure everything is okay on day one of his new job?

I’m guessing you are all saying no! I hope you’re all say NO!
Well, if you don’t lay the ground work now, while they’re young, you may have a problem on your hands. Let me share my real-life story to explain what I mean.

This story happened when tall, (FYI: I call my adult kids tall and taller) was in 4th grade.

We’d been told by other parents that his teacher was tough. I figured I’d talk to the teacher and explain how shy and sensitive, yet very capable my son was. The teacher was very unimpressed. Her response was, “He won’t always have you to pave the road ahead for him. You need to trust me. I’ll take it from here.”

I was incredulous; my mouth fell open. But something clicked. I shut my mouth and began to do some thinking.

First I reviewed what happened.
My goal was to be proactive and let the teacher know that my son was really shy, sensitive, and really, really smart. I wanted to let her know that when he’s forced to do things he doesn’t feel comfortable doing he shuts down, emotionally and academically, even though he’s very capable.

As I was reviewing in my mind what the teacher said, “he won’t always have you to pave the road ahead for him.” I realized, OMG, she was right!

My aha moment meant I needed to learn something. I needed to know:
• how to support him, without being over-protective.
• how to remain connected as I empowered him to be independent and stretch himself so he’s
age-appropriately and emotionally ready for his future.
• what I could do that would serve my son’s needs, while at the same time making sure I was
looking ahead at the bigger picture.

I realized that connection was at the heart of it all. 
I needed to make sure my son felt heard, seen, and valued no matter how difficult 4th grade was. Here are the steps I took while remaining connected.

Step one: The teacher
In my case, I knew the teacher was a great teacher. I’d picked her after hearing the same comments from all the parents I talked to, “You’ll think she’s unfair at the beginning of the year, but when you realize how much your child has grown at the end of the year, you’ll refer to her as a genius.”
Take away: Make sure there’s a good fit between the teacher and your child. I define good fit as someone who truly sees who your child is and what your child needs in order to grow.

Step Two: Release
Many years ago, I hear Jim Fay say, “I’ve already graduated from 4th grade, so I don’t have to do that homework. But you do!” I always thought that was kinda cold. But that day I saw the wisdom in his statement.
Take away: Life lessons are provided by the daily experiences we have. All we can do is remain connected and guide our kids through those experiences. We can’t, and shouldn’t, do it for them. Release your children to themselves and let them stretch and grow from their experiences at school.
Disclaimer: I’m not talking about abandoning kids when they’re being bullied, or anything like that. So, no need for emails, comments, or dislikes.

Step three: Connect and talk.
Here’s where my biggest aha occurred.
At the beginning of the year, I remained connected to son by volunteering one day a week in the classroom. This allowed me to witness my child as he learned to stretch himself and do things he didn’t want to do as the work got harder.
On the way home we’d talk. But now, after my aha moment, I’d listen more than jumping to protect or solve things for him. And guess what? He told me he was loving the challenges.
I asked him, “what’s all the whining and complaining about?” He said, “Mrs. 4th grade is hard, so sometimes I whine cause I know you’ll show up and listen.”
Take away: That’s when I realized that he was seeking connection from me, not homework help. We talked, and together we decided how much help I’d be offering from here on out. I also told him that I wanted to spend time with him too, so I’d be willing to sit in his room for 30 minutes, reading, as he did his homework. Things got easier from there.

When June arrived, as predicted, he and I both agreed that Mrs. 4th grade was one of the best teachers he ever had.

Connection is the magic that opens the mind, and allows people to feel supported, seen, heard, valued, even as they grow. The key to really making connecting work is to make sure you’re embracing the bigger picture, versus protecting your child from it.

Happy Holidays.
Now, go hug your kids.



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