Setting Priorities

Setting Priorities

I recently watched a Ted Talk on “How to raise successful kids - without over-parenting” by Julie Lythcott-Haims and thought, “I am a person with many checklists!” In the video, she said to throw those checklists away, and like I do with most Ted Talks, I applauded and said, “Yes!”

She’s right, though. She says we focus too much on checklists, such as hitting milestones at a certain age or getting the right grades to get into a desired college. So while I still plan on using my checklists as a guide, personally and professionally, I also know that I shouldn’t fret too much over them.

I grew up with something of a “tiger mom” upbringing. My biggest worries were grades and getting accepted into a good college. Once I got into college, though, I didn’t know how to manage money, do simple household chores, or even study on my own. I failed in many ways because I moved away and didn’t have someone hovering over me to tell me to get my work done.

And so with our over-help, our overprotection and over-direction and hand-holding, we deprive our kids of the chance to build self-efficacy… and we should just back off and let go? Hell no.
— Julie Lythcott-Haims

We set our children up for success when we prioritize goals and assist when we need to. In a recent blog post, I gave the example of teaching your child to wait. It is an awesome skill to teach, but I’d rather you teach your child to consistently communicate their wants and needs first. That way, we’re preventing even heavier meltdowns. The same goes with academics. I often get asked about teaching letters and shapes to prepare for school; however, I would prioritize goals to teach words like cup, car, and bed because those are everyday words. For example:

When you’re eating breakfast, you are going to drink milk from a cup.

We get to the store by riding in the car.

We’ve got to make our bed so we can sleep in it later.

As for “over-help” and “hand-holding”? We assist (prompt) our kids by showing them how, but fading our assistance over time will set them up to be independent. Otherwise, we risk having our kids become dependent on us.

One’s own actions lead to outcomes. So simply put, if our children are to develop self-efficacy, and they must, then they have to do a whole lot more of the thinking, planning, deciding, doing, hoping, coping, trial and error, dreaming and experiencing of life for themselves.
— Julie Lythcott-Haims

I appreciated Lythcott-Haims’ emphasis on chores because she takes a simple skill such as recognizing a dirty floor and vacuuming and relates it to helping out at the workplace by saying, “someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me.” Yes, there’s a checklist for your job description, but when it comes to functioning in a workplace, there is no checklist. And, as she explains, teaching these problem solving skills early can set your child up for success later on in life.