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Let go, and let them fly

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How to build in your children the confidence they need

We heard some noise outside our door this morning. It sounded like an angry cat. The noise just got louder. We had to look to find out what was happening.

In a corner there was a cute kitten who was obviously feeling very lazy to move. On the other side was her mother, trying to get her to move and find her breakfast. It all started with gentle coercing and gradually moved on to a ‘raised’ voice, clearly indicating that the mother was not going to fetch food today. If the kitten wanted to eat, she would have to learn to fetch on her own. The mother wanted to teach how to hunt that morning, but the kitten would not move. Obviously she liked to laze and did not want to get out of her mommy’s protective hug.

As a parent you want not only the best things for your child but you also want to bring her up as a good, caring and smart human being. To achieve that, the general parenting advice I have heard is to ‘let go’. In other words, letting her to figure out things for herself instead of hovering on the side and constantly telling her what to do and how to do.

But what is a good age to let go? When your child is an adult? Or much before? I guess much before, so that the child grows into a confident adult and not just dropped off a cliff soon after reaching adulthood, to figure out things for herself. If that is true, what is “much before adulthood?” What is a good age to let them figure out things for themselves?

You don’t give it much thought until your child is out on her own, amid her friends. Initially you are watching her as she is too young to be left by herself. Slowly you move away, giving her the space and the confidence, by conveying that you know she can manage on her own. If she is a cautious child, she will take more time to let you go away from sight, but it is bound to happen and it happens one way or the other.

Giving space

You worry when she is out of sight. You feel your parental protective instinct digging you inside, forcing you to go and look out for her the way you always did. But then you know you must give her space, she is growing up and it is imperative that you let the confidence build at its own pace over time. By hovering around, you make it harder for you as well as her to let go and learn to become independent. But at the same time, it is important to let her know that the home base exists and she can come back to it to talk about happy experiences as well as the sad ones that trouble her deeply.

When my son was around four, I used to watch him get bullied many times. I used to hold myself thinking I must let him deal with it and if the situation gets worse, only then must I intervene. There was this day when I was sitting on the side trying hard to stop myself from rushing to the boy bullying my son, intervene and say something that would scare off the boy, another parent sat down next to me. As if she read my mind, she said to me, “They must learn to resolve issues on their own. We cannot all the time do it for them.”

I found myself confused for a while, trying to decide what would be the best course of action. After a while, I realised I must listen to my motherly instinct telling me to make myself available should my son need my help. I must help him build confidence to face adversities. That does not happen by disappearing from the picture, but being available if the need arises.

Several years have passed since then and he is more adept at dealing with bullies now. Even then my husband and I let him know from time to time that we must know if the situation gets out of hand, so we can act upon it. Of course he is no longer a baby, but in our hearts he is still the same baby we saw the day he was born. But he is growing up. We must let him make mistakes, learn from them and figure out things on his own, while we wait on the side, should he need us for something.

lakshmi.mitter@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 1:12:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/let-go-and-let-them-fly/article20551578.ece

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