Q: Despite our best parenting efforts, our adult son has developed a talent for making dumb decisions and behaving irresponsibly. He recently financed an expensive car he couldn't afford, only to total it three weeks later -- after he'd canceled the insurance. He's now in serious financial straits and may lose his job for lack of transportation. We've tried to support and help him in similar situations, but things just get worse. What should we do?
Jim: Unfortunately, even good parents often see their adult children make poor choices. Our role as parents should change as our kids enter adulthood, but our purpose should not: To encourage them to become mature, self-controlled, self-regulating, responsible and independent adults. In this case, I would suggest that means allowing your son to come face-to-face with the real-life consequences of his choices. Here are three principles to keep in mind:
1) Don't make your child's problem your problem. Maintain appropriate boundaries by respecting his right to be his own man and make his own decisions. To assume his problems is to deprive him of adult autonomy. That's almost always counterproductive.
2) Don't make yourself the solution to your child's problem. It's not your job or responsibility to fix everything that's broken and right every wrong in your son's life. Experience is the best teacher, and you need to give your son the opportunity to learn from the consequences of his decisions.
3) Maintain the relationship. Avoid damaging your relationship with your son by "sticking your oar in" where it isn't wanted or needed. Uninvited interference and "I told you so's" can inspire resentment, and resentment will destroy the all-important heart-connection between parent and child. Keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to maintain a strong and positive influence.
If you need help navigating this process, our licensed counselors would be pleased to provide additional thoughts. Don't hesitate to call them at 1-855-771-4537 for a free consultation.
Q: Our school board is meeting next week to prepare for the new school year, and one item they're proposing is eliminating recess for elementary schoolchildren to devote more time to academics. My neighbor is all for this and thinks it will benefit her kids. But something just doesn't feel good about it to me. What do you think?
Danny Huerta, Executive Director, Parenting: It's healthy to stretch our children's minds, and it's natural to want to give them a head start. But the growing trend of eliminating recess concerns me because it threatens our kids' emotional, psychological, cognitive and social development.
Play provides opportunities for children to self-express, think creatively, develop cognitively, work through challenges, regulate emotions, build self-confidence, communicate and connect with others, and practice roles needed for survival. There's also evidence that play can help prevent some of the attention and mood disorders and sensory processing issues we're seeing in many children.
It's also important to understand that competitive and organized sports are not substitutes for unstructured and unrestricted play where imagination, creativity and exploration are essential elements. Sports practice, where a child is learning a skill under the direction of a coach, is -- in a certain sense -- "work."
The case can be made, then, that playtime at recess actually helps children learn and develop inside the classroom. Should your local school board, however, succumb to recent trends and eliminate recess time, make sure you compensate for that loss by ensuring your child's playtime needs are met. How that looks varies from child to child. The important thing to remember is that they have fun with activities they choose. And they'll benefit even more if you join in, too!
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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