At some point in our parenting lives we will all decide if we want to be a safety net or a safety harnesses for our children. Some of us make this decision consciously, some of us fall into patterns that we were raised with. Safety nets are different the safety harness, and safety nets are better.
The biggest difference between the two is that a safety harness prevents people from falling, while a safety net allows people to fall, but prevents them from crashing hard onto the ground below. And that is an important distinction. Especially when we apply it to parenting. Allowing your kids to fall while the are still young and letting them experience failure is critical. Harnessing them up and fearing failure can do more damage in the long run.
Here are 6 ways to be a safety net and not a harness for your kids.
1) Do what you say, say what you mean, and do what you say you’re going to do
Parenting is all about follow through and consistency. When your kids know what’s going on and what to expect from you, it makes them feel safe and stable. It is important that you don’t say something unless you mean it. You are teaching them a lesson in credibility and who they can trust. If you are consistent in their success and their failures, they will be less afraid of failing.
2) Let them experience consequences
Let’s face it, your kid is gonna do at least ONE stupid thing in their lifetime. Most likely it will be a few stupid things. Unless the consequence is life threatening to morally threatening, let them experience the consequences of their mistakes. Taking responsibility for their mistakes is a necessary lesson to learn as they become an adult later on. The beauty of childhood, is that mistakes made now usually don’t have consequences that are too final. This is why letting your kids fall out of a tree is ok. This is why letting their soccer coach (instead of you) challenge them pay attention and work harder when they’re goofing off is important. This is why not saving them from their procrastination on a project is important.
3) Give them chores without pay because they are part of the family
We’ve always believe that in a family, everybody does their share. Things like taking out the trash, cleaning their room, helping in the yard, and cleaning the bathroom is just a thing that should be expected because you are part of the family. Allowances are great too, but give allowances so you can teach your kids how to manage their money – how to save, spend, and give – not just because they did something they should do anyway.
4) Teach them how to do things
Seriously, teach them and then make them do their own laundry, vacuum, make their own lunches, cook meals, etc. When we do too many things for our kids we send the message that we don’t believe that they can do it or that they aren’t talented enough – which is silly – because we all know these are things they can indeed do.
5) Help them learn priorities by eliminating activities
With the current demand to look good on paper for colleges and jobs, we are all tempted to say yes to anything and everything. Of course you want your kids to find a passion or two – that stuff can bring meaning and joy to their lives. But they can’t do everything. Heck, you can’t do everything! Putting that kind of pressure is one of the biggest stealers of joy and culprits of anxiety and depression. Life is about making tough choices. They will have to make them for the rest of their lives, teach them now to make decision based on what they value, not what other people expect from them. As they figure out those values, protect those values for them, and don’t add extra expectations.
6) Teach responsibility and model truthfulness
When you can take responsibility for something you have done wrong, admit it to them, seek forgiveness from them. This communicates that you’re not afraid of your mistakes and you trust that your relationships is bigger than your mistakes. This also communicates that they don’t need to be afraid of being shamed when they make a mistake and they don’t need to hide things from you and lie.
Keep in mind that God gave you the responsibility to teach your kids how to be the person god created them to be. You don’t have to be the great protector all the time and as a result, they will have better life skills and a deeper connection with you when they’re grown.