Instead of micromanaging, let your kid manage

After several weeks of shelter-in-place, you may feel like you’ve got this work/school-at-home thing down. But when your kid powers up that Chromebook and there’s a list of all of the assignments to be completed by 3:00 pm, a storm cloud of dread descends. How are they going to get this done unless you micromanaging to make sure it happens?

According to research, the impact on kids of a parent who is too controlling and micromanages results in ineffective coping skills, stress, depression, and a lower level of satisfaction with life. Right now, we’re feeling more responsible for their success in school than ever, so it’s hard to let go and trust our kids to get their work done. 

This may feel uncomfortable, but letting a kid take control gives them the opportunity to develop the skill of self-direction, one of the most important skills a kid can build: setting a goal, making a plan, carrying out the plan, showing their work and reflecting on the effectiveness of the plan. It’s a good thing any kid can learn.

Acquiring skills is lumpy. That means there will be lots of bumps and missteps. Don’t get discouraged if they fail; that’s part of the deal. We have a complicated relationship with failure, but it’s an opportunity for kids to learn perseverance. Kids who learn to cope with failure are willing to risk taking on bigger challenges without fear. Our role as parents is to let them take control as you support them with the right tools.

Give your kid what they need, not what they ask for.
Provide the tools they need to get their work done like the self-directed learning cycle.

This helps your kid set a goal, make a plan, do the work, and finally reflect on the process they used. Without a tool like this, a kid may just say, “I can’t do it. I’ll just fail the assignment; but, if you don’t want me to fail, just help me do it.”

The self-directed learning cycle shifts the conversation from an argument between parent and kid to a discussion of the process chosen to accomplish the task. A change of process may be all that’s needed to get the job done.

Check-in occasionally, and encourage your kid to power through with the 5 power behaviors.
Let your kid know you’re there when they need you, but resist the impulse to take over.

You can use the power behaviors – and their language – to help your kids over a hurdle: shift strategy, seek challenges, persist, respond to setbacks, and ask for appropriate help.

Eliminate the fear of failure by letting your kid fail small, and learn from it.
Learning is a process, and there are many tough days when we need to be reminded, like in this quote from Jacob Riis, 
When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Failure is productive when the person who fails actually learns something and is then motivated to try again.

If they’re asking for help, talk through problem-solving strategies by asking these questions:
  • What was most challenging?
  • What are some ways you could have handled this differently?
  • What did you learn this time that you can use for the next time?

Offer some
motivation as needed.
Acknowledge their effort and their willingness to follow through, even when it gets tough.

And when it does get tough, remind them, they’re what matters.
Letting your kid know they matter develops a strong bond, known as secure attachment, which leads to success not only in school, but in life. Using this framework of 20 specific actions you can take as a parent, you’ll guide your kid through hard situations, and make them feel they matter at the same time. They reinforce each other and push your kid to get better.