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Raising Successful Children

image of a group fist-bump represents family unity and teamwork
There is a spectrum of power we give our children in our parenting approach.  This spectrum can be placed into three categories.

1.) Authoritarian - This is when we call the shots.  We aim to raise the best children possible, and we know what is best for them, so we make it easy for them by telling them what to do and how to act.
2.) Involvement - This is when we recognize that our children are their own people and they may have some important input.  We allow them to provide that input, but as the adult, we still make all of the decisions.
3.) Cooperation - This is where we recognize that our children are independent human beings with their own ideas and goals.  We share the problem and let them be a part of the solution.  We may set boundaries, but we allow them come up with solutions that fit within those boundaries, even if it is not the solution we would choose.

Let's use a common family problem as an example:  8 year old Jimmy asks you what is for dinner.  You are in the middle of cooking, and you pause to reply "We are having pork chops on rice, mashed potatoes, green beans, and sliced pears".  Jimmy complains as he loudly reports that he would like to have cupcakes for dinner for the rest of the week.  How you respond can reveal a lot about where you are on this parenting spectrum.  It is normal and appropriate to move up and down on the spectrum, and to pick certain approaches for certain situations.

1.) Authoritarian - You respond "Jimmy, you get what you get.  I work for the food, I buy the food, and I cook the food.  When you have your own house you can make the decisions, but for now this is what we will have."
2.) Involvement - You respond "Jimmy, we can't have cupcakes for dinner, its not healthy.  If you are good though, I can make cupcakes for dessert."
3.) Cooperation - You respond "Jimmy, cupcakes don't provide what we need from a meal.  We need two vegetables, a fruit, bread or pasta, and either meat or beans.  Do you want to help plan some of the meals this week, or are you really just craving some cupcakes?".

Don't over focus on the dietary restrictions I set in the above example, that is just how I would explain the basics of meal planning to an 8 year old in my home.  Your may have much better rules in your home.  In the examples above, you can see that the strategies are progressively engaging to the child, without giving in to an unreasonable request.  The trick with the last one is that by sharing the appropriate boundaries you are making the problem his problem to solve.  The catch is that children will inevitably find ways to solve the problem that you do not like.

Our goal as parents is to raise children who become successful, autonomous adults.  We often forget that a part of that, is teaching them to solve real life problems.  We do so much for them.  Sometimes we do it because we love them, and sometimes we do it because it is easier and quicker, but rarely do we allow them to solve their own problems.  We need to change this pattern.  While I believe that a good parent will move up and down this spectrum, I urge you to spend more time in the "cooperation" area than you currently do.


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