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My Biggest Parenting Challenge Is One I’ve Struggled with Since the Beginning

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

I have a confession to make about my biggest parenting challenge.

Is it sleeping through the night? No. It used to be, but not anymore.

Is it getting my kids to stop bickering? No. Sibling rivalry is annoying, yet a part of growing up.

It’s not getting them to do their homework, read, or eat healthy, either.

My biggest challenge as a mom is figuring out when to step in and when to lean back.

You see, I don’t want to over-parent, coddle, or hover. I would rather give them the confidence, information, and tools they need to make their own choices. I believe in fostering independence, but without ignoring them or letting them do whatever they want.

It’s a delicate balance, and much easier said than done. When my kids were toddlers, my first instinct when they fell was to rush to their side, help them get up, and worry until they felt better again. I quickly learned this coddling only made them cry harder. So I fought my overprotective parenting instinct and took a step back; I waited a minute or so before I stepped in to assist them. They got faster (and better) at getting up again. I also learned to tell the difference between real danger and perceived harm. It became evident that if I didn’t give them the chance to learn something on their own, they would never master new skills.

Now that they’re tweens, I take the same approach — but with very different issues. When they make mistakes, I wait a bit before rushing to their side. I wait for them to try to figure out how to solve the problem for themselves. Don’t think I’m not watching them closely. I am. I just try to not intervene much, whether my kids are facing a “frenemy” feud, a basketball foul, or a sibling quarrel.

As they approach their teen years, it’s getting harder and harder to step back. The stakes seem bigger. You don’t want to embarrass your child in front of his peers, but you don’t want your kids to think you ignore them or don’t care.

How do you know when it’s time to step in?

I’m still figuring it out, but all I know is that when my child is truly in harm’s way, I don’t care whether I’m being overprotective or just acting like a mama bear. Yet I also take a deep breath and ask myself if I am simply imagining this danger or if it’s real. You’d be surprised at how often it’s just my perception. I’ve realized that even if I don’t always get this parenting thing right, at least I am teaching my kids to be independent and resilient.

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