Am I Stepping Up or Stepping Over?

Imagine this…or you may not need to imagine, you might remember this exact scenario played over many times…Your child comes home from kindy or school upset because they had an argument with their best friend who then said some mean things to your child. How do you handle it?  Are you a live and let live, kids will be kids it will blow over parent? Or do you go in guns blazing ready to take on the kindy, school, the teacher, the parents of the child and the child themselves?

Finding the balance between allowing your child to cope and sort things out for themselves and speaking up and advocating for your child is one of the hardest lessons to learn as a parent. It is the lesson we will continue to wrong and right always, no magic formula, but there are some steps you can take that will help guide you to get it right more than you get it wrong.

It is about taking each event for what It is; an opportunity for you and your child to grow.

Where to start?

Let them know you noticed something has happened and ask, “is everything ok?”

Then listen, really listen, not with the solution formulating in your head, instead tune in to everything your child is telling you with their words, their silence and their body.

Then reflect back to their feelings, “Wow, ok, how you feeling about that?” or for those kids who struggling with feelings words, often boys respond better to thinking rather than feeling questions, “what do think about that?”

Empathise with their feelings and validate them, don’t dismiss them. Offering a balanced perspective may be useful, but don’t over do it and have your child feel like you don’t understand.

Then and here is the next most important part, give them room to solve it; “Hmm, that’s tough, how are you going to handle it?”

It is so easy for us to jump in with a million solutions, allow our children to feel victimised and that you need to rescue them from this cold harsh world.  What can happen over time, is that your child learns that they can’t cope and they need others to sort things out for them, “I’m not capable, poor me” thinking can creep in.

It is hard as a parent to watch our children be in pain, but every time we step over, we rob them of the opportunity to grow and learn. Your child might need you to brain storm some ideas, if they are really struggling to come up with some, but your role here is to help THEM to solve it, not to provide all the answers and do it for them.

It might help, once they have decided they want to take some action, or that they want to respond in some way, to help them with a script, but it should be driven by what is in the highest and best interest of your child, and that might mean you need to but out.

There will be times that you child will need you to step up and advocate for them. At those times it is helpful to remember that your child experienced the event through their lenses, but that there will always be other perspectives on the same event.  So, if you need to intervene, try to ask questions first of the others involved, so you can gain a fuller understanding of everyone’s point of view. This allows room for negotiation and balanced outcomes.

If you are having trouble deciding when to step back and when to step up, just ask yourself, “what does this situation require of me and my child, what will serve their highest need?”

Is it quiet support at home and a demonstration that you trust their ability to handle things OR is it a calm rational intervention from their parent?

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