CODDLE ME NOT: Strategies for Your Growing Child

Although there is no catch-all guide that promises your little one’s destiny as a well-rounded, joyful achiever, there are a few counterintuitive strategies to set the pace for your kid's journey to future success and happiness.

9 min read

Do you throw Math problems to your children… while on vacation? Well hello, Tiger Mom!

Are you the buzzing drone on the side-lines of your kids’ football match coaching them at every water break? Right hand up, Helicopter Dad!

Or do you pin down every obstacle on your children’s paths to college just to make their lives easier (we’re looking at you Lori Loughlin)? Then step right up Bulldozer, Snowplow, Lawnmower (take your pick) Parent!

Modern day parenthood has sprouted all kinds of parenting brands. These brands stick because they are all too relatable. No doubt we’ve all had our moments of being one or the other kind of parent, mocked for anxious meddlesomeness or cavalier inattention. But the Tiger, Helicopter, and Bulldozer, despite best intentions, may very well end up having raised stressed-out, resentful, or entitled kids who have no idea how to get out of a sticky situation without a lot of hand-holding from Mom or Dad. The bigger irony, however misguided, is that all these exacting methods are born of a deep love for our children and the desire to give them only the very best.

For better or worse, we find sooner or later that their future is very much out of our hands. All we can do is arm them with skills to prepare them for the world that awaits. And though there is no catch-all guide that promises your little one’s destiny as a well-rounded, joyful achiever, here are a few counterintuitive strategies to set the pace for your kid's journey to future success and happiness.

Teach them to fail
 Shed your stripes and consider this for a moment, Tiger Mom. Not “make them fail”, but rather, “teach them how to fail.” Step into your discomfort zone, and give them room for error. Let them know it’s perfectly okay not to be good at everything. When they miss their goal, encourage them with kindness to dust themselves off and try again. You want to build persevering and resilient children who know how to cope with the pain and disappointment of dashed expectations. 

"Parents see failure as a source of pain for their child instead of an opportunity for him to say, 'I can deal with this. I'm strong,'" says Madeline Levine, Ph.D., author of The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids.

Boredom is good
While it’s not a new discovery, this is still a concept not easily grasped by overachieving parents who feel it is their job to swoop in and rescue their child from boredom. Parents need to give their child the space to just be.

Research shows that saving a child from boredom is counter-productive, because she will miss out on a key element of healthy child development: the experience of unstructured time. Raw unstructured time is a reality of life which sets up the perfect environment for freedom. When children can reflect on the world inside and outside themselves, explore passions, experiment, and create, they open their eyes - and yours - to the world of possibility that comes with nothing structured to do. Resist the temptation to save them from boredom with devices. Once kids get the hang of using TV and gadgets, they become good at entertaining themselves – setting limits on their creativity at play.

Good grades don’t guarantee success 
Especially not when mental health is on the line. Unlike in a school setting, real life isn’t based on stellar transcripts but on the value of hard work. A US study found that 80% of surveyed students based their sense of self-worth on their grades. The lower their grades, the lower their self-esteem. And when grading systems are dependent on so many variables—a stable home life, living conditions, health etc., it becomes a very unreliable and dangerous measure of success. Additionally, anxiety about grades and achievement can actually compromise your child’s mental function. While some stress is normal and can be a good motivator during exam week, excessive worry and perceived pressure has a negative effect on performance.

Stay out of their battles
All too often, we parents tend to rescue our kids from conflict. But we want to raise kids who advocate for themselves and know how to sort out their own disputes. Unless relentless bullying is involved, take a giant step back. Avoid playing mediator, and suspend your own opinion. "That prevents kids from learning to solve their own problems,” Jennifer Hartstein, PsyD, a child psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center. Do not tell the children how to resolve the conflict; it won’t teach them anything. You might be surprised how kids can resolve differences peacefully on their own. If the problem seems to persist, lend an ear then help brainstorm solutions.

Independence can be overrated
Of course, we all want our kids to gain independence. We do this by teaching children to take responsibility for themselves by letting them experience the natural consequences of their actions. You forget your snack, you go hungry. You leave your homework behind, you get a lower score. This is how the no-rescue folks roll. 

But as writer Catherine Newman questions, “Mothers have been the coddlers, historically speaking: the bringers of forgotten things, the tenders of the beleaguered. ‘I am sick of doing everything for everybody,’ we may be saying. ‘And I don’t want my kids to be hapless dependents.’ Fair enough. Except...independence may not be such a great goal either. Everyone taking good care of themselves, efficiently separated from the needs of others — is that the best possible world we can live in?” 

She continues to argue for something else altogether, “Not dependence, not independence, but something more like interdependence, where we acknowledge our mutual reliance, count on cooperation, and nurture generosity, compassion and charity. Interdependence means saying, in a million ways, “How can I help?” — to your children, your partner, your friends, your community — and expecting them to do the same.”

Adjust your stride
At the heart of all of these suggestions is something that parents need to fundamentally recognize: Your children are not you. Kids need a lot of wiggle room to stretch and grow, to strive and fail. So dial down the pressure and parent the child you have, not the child you were. Children need to be recognised as individuals with agency, with the freedom to choose their own path. Being their guide, not their saviour nor a dictator, is crucial as they begin to solidify their own identities.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.


About The Writer



Barni Alunan-Escaler is a writer, mother, and wife. She is a staunch advocate for inclusion and the rights of kids with special needs. She is currently quarantined in Makati, enduring and enjoying lockdown with with her husband, 2 boys, and toy poodle.








The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.

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