“Mom, I accidentally locked the key inside the car,” my son called to tell me one day, just a few months after he learned to drive. My first instinct was to drop all my meetings, even planning to take Uber and brave the the mega traffic that day, just to rush to his aid. But I knew it wasn’t the smartest choice nor was it practical, with the time he has to wait for me to get there, he could perhaps already find solutions on his own. So Gary called him to give him suggestions on what he could do and let him try to work things out on his own. It was hard not to heed the call of my “mother’s instinct” and also not worry a bit, but I held back and let him do his thing.
Remember how we as moms have learned to control our reaction when our toddlers would trip and fall? When the fall is a harmless one, we know NOT to react and when we do so, our child simply stands back up, dusts himself off and goes back to play. The more we react to his fall, then the more chances he is to cry and be helpless. In this parenting scenario alone, we see that sometimes, it is also good to step back and let our kids manage on their own- this is part of empowering them so they learn self-reliance and resilience.
The first step to empowering our kids is to recognize teachable moments and using them as growth opportunities for our children. What are things to remember when utilising teachable moments:
1) Set boundaries but always give importance on the process of smart decision making. Part of problem solving is going through a smart decision making process. This is something we need to teach our children- a) Be proactive (as opposed to being reactive). Look for solutions to problems and not dwell on the problem itself, that can cause your emotions to flow and cloud your judgement, 2) Teach our kids how critical thinking- process problems and the various options available to take. 3) Guide him to weigh right from wrong. This is where values are tested and also realised.
When our son locked the keys in the car. We made suggestions because he had only been driving for 2-3 months and he was obviously unfamiliar about what he should do. The suggestions we made (walk from school to the nearby commercial area and look for locksmith) we knew would be manageable for him, and that his safety would not be compromised. The rest of the steps we left for him to think about and act on.
Ultimately our goal for our children is for them to: Choosing a good action vs a not-so-good one, making a responsible choice vs a popular choice, and taking steps that are smart, safe and will get him to a solution as sure or as fast as possible.
For younger kids, we should recognize that even mundane everyday tasks can be teachable moments in disguise. Practice with simple scenarios- making our child choose what we should have for dinner, letting her choose her outfit, or choosing which friend to visit the next weekend. By a certain age, give your child his or her own say. Like what we did, you can give options to young children so as not to overwhelm them (Do you want outfit A or outfit B?). With these simple, everyday decision-making processes, we have a glimpse into how their minds work and guide them slowly towards smart decision making.
2) Manage your expectations according to age and stage. Whether it be a locked car, or a harmless fall, make sure you are setting expectations on your child that are age appropriate. As a mom, we know what our child is capable of and not capable of depending on age and stage, and our child’s temperament and personality. Make sure the challenges that you set for him are within his capability so that there are more chances of a happy ending. When the ending is not happy though, accept it and make room for these mistakes so our kids can learn from them.
Reese is a voracious reader and several times at night I would think she was already asleep only to catch her still engrossed in her book’s pages.
When this happens she is super cranky the next day for school. Since she is already 9, we had a conversation about this and reminded her about the cause and effect of her cranky mornings, and how I would want and expect her to keep her bedtime and be a responsible reader.
She has since missed our assigned bedtime maybe just once or twice, and when she is throwing a fit in the morning and not wanting to go to school because she is tired, i simply remind her about her responsibility and she immediately quiets down and owns up to her mishap. Slowly she learns the consequence of her actions and becomes more mindful of bedtime.
3) Allow for mistakes and mishaps but be available as a helpline. With what happened with our son and several other cases this past year, Gary and I have realized by experience that whatever the problem, big our small, the first thing our kids will do is click on our name on their speed dial. We are happy and grateful about this because we know it stems from our being able nurture a trustful relationship with our kids since they were younger. Now there is a clear challenge to us to step back when they encounter problems, but while we do, we don’t cut off support. Just be on standby for an SOS calls.
Falling out with friendships, arguments with classmates, disciplinary warnings in school. I’d say these are but normal occurances in a child’ life. When our kids get involved in such entanglements, our protective mode goes off, and we want to step in and fight his fight. It’s hard not to, but I’ve been able to resist and learn that allowing them to resolve issues on their own are really empowering. We just talk about it after and that is the way to check if they are on the right track, but then the ball is always on their court not ours.
4) Take time to explain rules that we set for them. Yes it is tempting to just say “Because I said so” when the kids ask why we do certain things or disallow others, but if we take the time to explain things, we not only give them a better understanding that our rules are there for their own benefit but it also gives them an idea on how our actions have certain effects, and they eventually learn to set their own personal parameters and limitations as they grow older. For example, if our goal for our kids is to make healthy choices, instead of just reprimanding them from eating too much junk food, we can teach them about what is healthy and not so healthy choices of food and drink, and how it affects their bodies. Instead of just giving them their daily Propan TLC, we can explain that it contains essential vitamins plus minerals like Taurine, Lysine and Chlorella and share with them how it benefits their body. We can even say that drinking vitamins daily protects them from getting sick especially during rainy season, because Propan TLC has 100% RENI vitamin C and this gives them stronger immunity.
5) Teach in context. It is best to communicate lessons to our kids while in context of our daily interaction with them. We do not need to formally announce that we will teach them something new and sit them down to do this. Kids will be more open to learning from us when it is done in experientially or in context such as while shopping in the grocery store, cooking meals or in the mornings while we are giving them their daily Propan TLC dose.
So how did my son do after his locked car predicament? After a couple of hours, I heard the car drive in and he came into the house with a (subtle) victorious look on his face. He got home safely and proceeded to share with me how he did it all on his own. He made the right choices. He first informed the school guard that he would have to leave his car for a few hours to look for a locksmith. Then he walked out of school, looked at the nearest supermarket where a locksmith would probably be available. Walked back with the locksmith to the car, and watched him while he opened the window and door. We pretended like it was nothing, but deep inside, I was filled with pride for my son, but also for myself and Gary for letting the learning moment happen for him by not stepping in. I heard that this kind of thing happens a lot. I read a statistic about a Las Vegas car locksmith service that had to unlock 500 cars in one day!
Teachable moments are opportunities for children to learn to solve problems on their own. Whether our kid is 8 or 18, whether he is challenged by reaching up to get gis favorite toy from a shelf or figuring out how to open a locked car door, we should try to recognize these teachable moments. These are golden opportunities for them to gain self-awareness (knowing what they are capable of), self-confidence (knowing they actually ARE capable), streetsmarts (common sense “diskarte”). having an empowered kid should be the goal of every modern mama.
This is a sponsored post by Propan TLC, a brand that believes in providing complete and proper nutrition for children. With our steps towards empowering our kids, plus Propan’s TLC, they grow up to be happy, healthy, smart and confident children ready to take on the world’s challenges. May our next challenge to them be, to take daily maintenance of Propan TLC and ensure they have proper nutrition for optimum growth.