Balancing our propensity to serve out of love and our desire to nurture our children’s sense of responsibility and independence is a delicate one. How do you know if you have an over pampered child?
Parenting is an inherently service-oriented vocation. The things that parents typically do for their children include changing their diapers, clothing them, feeding them, chauffeuring them to and fro school and enrichment classes, etc,. And we do that out of love.
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Acclaimed author and family counsellor Gary Chapman classifies these ‘acts of service’ as one of the ‘five love languages’ (the remaining four are words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time and gifts).
Most parents would willingly serve their children without expecting anything in return. Perhaps, it is our basic parental duty to do for our children what they are incapable of doing by themselves, at least until they develop and grow into capable, competent, and self-reliant individuals. However, we ought to be keenly aware of the common tendency to do too much for our children or to jump in to assist them at the first sign of struggle. In doing so, we risk depriving them the learning opportunities that are essential for their healthy development and growth.
Balancing our propensity to serve out of love and our desire to nurture our children’s sense of responsibility and independence is a delicate one. It requires some degree of awareness and an on-going assessment of what we ought to progressively let go or cease doing for our children as they mature and develop with time, exposure and gaining of new skills. A common example is to let school-going children manage their own homework.
Instead of having to constantly nag, remind or insist that children finish their homework diligently, wouldn’t it be easier to let them be motivated by their intrinsic desire to be seen as ‘good and responsible pupils’ and to avoid the potential negative consequences (be it guilt, anxiety or punishment) of not completing their work? Nagging or reminding children to do their homework is undoubtedly another act of service that is driven by a loving intention. However, when we cease trying to ‘teach’ and instead seek to create opportunities for our children to ‘learn’ responsibility and independence, a great deal of unnecessary daily battles could be avoided, thereby leaving room for us to play a more nurturing role while maintaining a positive, supportive and encouraging relationship with them.
While it is our parental duty to serve, it is also imperative that we learn to step back and allow our children to develop independence and responsibility through the experience of difficulties and mistakes. At times, too much service can be a disservice that impedes their development.
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About the author
This article is written by Kenny Toh, a professional coach, passionate father, and the founder of The Coaching Academy, Institute of Advanced Parentology and International Network for Parents as Coaches.
As a leading advocate for Parents-as-Coaches and Non-Punitive Discipline in Singapore, Kenny is committed to advancing the practice of parenting through a multidisciplinary approach that integrates the principles and practices from various disciplines including philosophy, psychology, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and personal development.
He has been invited to speak at public seminars such as Joyful Parenting Conference 2006 and Great Parenting Seminar 2007, and a wide range of educational institutions including Nanyang Technological University, National Junior College, secondary schools, primary schools and pre-schools. His insights and writings on parenting-related topics have been featured frequently in publications such as Readers’ Digest Asia, Straits Time’s Mind Your Body, Young Parents, Today’s Parents, Family Magazine, Mother and Baby, and Young Families.
To find our more information about Kenny’s work, kindly email [email protected] or visit www.advanceparentology.com and www.parentingwithoutpunishment.org.