One area where parents overdo and prevent kids from solving problems is sibling squabbles. They jump in and "kids learn it's not my responsibility to resolve my fight," Jordan said. He recommends "teaching children to look at each other, to talk to each other." Sometimes parents have to guide it a bit until skills are built. Parents who get in the middle should stop.
It even applies to things like finding lost items, Jordan said. When a shoe is lost, parents run around, crazed, searching. "Instead, ask when she last saw it," he said. Questions like that or what other shoes she can wear are more helpful and help the child develop coping skills.
Children should order their own meals in restaurants and speak for themselves at the store. "Lots of parents talk for their kids. Parents have to look at the long term. If they want their kids to be confident and have a good sense of self-reliance, they have to turn things over and let the child think for himself and solve problems for himself — so when the big leap of 18 comes, it's not that big a leap. Otherwise, it's a huge leap and a lot of kids are falling flat, with mental health issues, anxiety, depression, not knowing how to solve problems. That's not opinion. Studies prove it," Jordan said.
The same thing applies to "fixing" their relationships with other people. Listen. Ask what they tried and whether it helped. What else can they do?
Parents often know these things, but jump in anyway because "it's quicker and easier" to do it for them. "You avoid the whining and meltdowns, but it weakens the kids if you don't allow them to learn problem-solving skills. As kids get older, there needs to be a shift" so they learn to take care of themselves.
Teens? Don't hover
"You have to stop solving all their problems when they're in high school," said Daitch — and much sooner than that. Parents unwilling to let their children make mistakes, try things, solve their own problems or think for themselves need to change. They have to let their children see their confidence that the child can make good decisions. "That is not to say you never should offer some suggestions. But let the child develop these very critical skills."
Her final advice is to reflect before you react. "Ask yourself if your involvement solving a child's problems is helping the child in the long run or if it's preventing her from developing necessary self-reliance needed to function independently."
Jordan knows parents who fight with their sophomores and juniors about bedtime. When a kid is 8, you might do a little negotiating, then send him to bed. A 16-year-old will soon head out into the world and needs to be prepared. It's fine to talk about sleep's importance and help them figure how much they need to be at their best. But teens can figure out their bedtime and suffer the consequences if they short-change themselves.
Kids need opportunities to "slow down and get quiet," he said. Many problems are "solved on the inside." But children don't know how to take quiet time, Jordan said. "It's hard to know how to solve your own problem if you're always busy and distracted."
"The sooner that you start asking them to solve their own problems or solve them with you, the more you help them," said Buck.
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