Previously, I discussed what I view as the single most important question a parent can be asking. It’s quite simple: Who is working harder (in this moment) at their life? Who is working harder at their happiness? Who is working harder at their homework? Who is working harder at getting them out of bed? Who is working harder at getting them to be motivated?
The list could go on, but you get the idea. If you didn’t read last week’s article, I ask that you do so. It’s essential.
Why? Because if you are working harder at their life than they are, then you are teaching them false lessons about the world. And these false lessons will destroy happiness, motivation, passion, and responsibility. It’s truly a deal-breaker.
Can’t I Cheat a Bit?
I just had a returning parent (that I had seen years ago) whose daughter is failing in numerous ways, offer this comment: “I thought I could still cheat…find my own way of coddling them through their teens…and it just blew up in my face.”
So, the answer is: Of course, you can cheat on this. You can cheat as much as you want. But please be willing to accept the result that comes from cheating: dependent, lazy, entitled, miserable, and irresponsible young men and women.
How to Make Certain Your Child Works Harder at Their Life Than You Do!
As we begin this discussion, I would like to suggest a very simple tool for determining if you have stepped over that magical line and are now working harder than your child at their life.
1. Trust Your Gut!
In these moments, your gut will always reveal the truth. It will feel bad, conflicted, or in turmoil. You can feel that.
Why? Because there you are… working hard at their life. And there they are…not working hard. In fact, they are often resisting you. Instead of putting effort where you direct them, they are fighting you. They complain. They whine. They claim to be unable, or too tired, or have some excuse. Yet, you keep working hard. When you engage your child this way, it feels bad. So, pay attention to this feeling. It’s a powerful internal barometer that will always tell you: Stop. You are working harder at their life than they are. Listen to this. And please stop.
2. Believe in your child’s strength. Know that they can handle their life.
Then, rather than fixing it, allow the unhappiness or frustration or disappointment to have its place. There may be a few tears, a bit of drama, and maybe even some ugly words about Mom or Dad, but this will pass. The moment will always pass. And with an open heart, affirm to your child: “I know you can handle it, sweetheart.”
Please believe that they will get through it and they can handle it. Then communicate it to them genuinely. It’s much more powerful than it appears.
3. Repetitive complaints are not problems to solve. Do not try to fix it.
When children say, “I’m bored,” look around the room and understand that this is a statement that makes no sense. There are lots of things for your kids to do in your home, so allow them to find a way to be entertained. Don’t fix it. Don’t solve it. Don’t direct them. Instead, smile…and walk away.
And when they repetitively complain about school, teachers, friends, coaches, notice if they have followed any of your wise and well-constructed advice. Likely not. Thus, you can start to see how this is much more of a train of complaints.
They are likely positioning themselves as victims in their life, despite having a great life. If you try to fix these moments, you will find yourself constantly trying to fix them. Yet, it only gets worse. Please stop. Stop trying to fix it.
And please understand that it’s their job in this fortunate, beautiful world they live in to find their happiness. To get Mom or Dad’s attention repeatedly for such complaints only serves to make them think that this is what the world will really care about, which is simply not true. (At least for the healthy world out there!) Give this some time, and you will see that they get better at it, BUT only if you stop trying so hard!
4. Coping with disappointment is a critical life skill to develop. Let it evolve.
When there is an inevitable disappointment, you can certainly coach them a bit. But don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to rescue them from every moment of misery or disappointment. Listen, and assure them that this too shall pass. Make sure that your child is working harder at solving the problem than you are, and then they will inevitably find a way through this.
As with all positive changes, growth occurs over time. When you make these adjustments, you will see a turnaround that happens within weeks, as a more resilient and happier child emerges. Just recognize how ineffective it is proving to be, when you are working hard, and they are not. Trust that they can learn, they can grow, and they can get stronger…but only if you STOP working harder at their life than they do.