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How to Raise Self-Reliant Kids

As parents, we’re all wondering how to raise self-reliant kids that are self-sufficient and work to figure out their own problems. But where do we start?

What prevents us parents from raising self-reliant kids?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​It’s a good question. 

Our guest, Jessica Lahey, author of the book The Gift of Failure attributes it to two things 

  1. We’re too emotionally involved and we don’t want our kids to be frustrated.  

Yes, definitely.  Been there.  Done that.

But there’s a second reason: 

  1. We take our validation from our kid’s successes.  

The A on their report card.

The acceptance on the traveling soccer team.

Those things are the star on our parent report card.

And it gets in the way.  

This conversation with Jessica is a can’t miss!  Here are the highlights of how to raise more self-reliant children.

Get kids to sit with frustration

Jessica explains there are two types of parents: directive parents and autonomy supportive parents.  

Directive parents tell their children exactly what to do and when to do it.

Autonomy supportive parents encourage kids to struggle and support them along the way.

According to research from Wendy S. Grolnick, kids of directive parents don’t do as well with struggle.  When they’re encountered by a hard task, they tend to give up. That’s because they don’t exercise that muscle of knowing how to deal with frustration.

Kids of autonomy supportive parents are WAY more likely to finish tasks on their own.  

Her book is called “The Gift of Failure” but she doesn’t want kids to fail.  She simply wants kids to have a positive, adaptive experience to the failure when it happens – because it inevitably will. 

READ: How to Build Grit in Kids: When to Push and When to Comfort

Allow kids to experience productive failure

Failure needs to help kids experience a sense of self-efficacy.  They need to have a bit of control as well as emotional support when they try and fail.  

Unproductive failure looks like crushing blow after crushing blow with no sense of support.  That’s the failure that beats kids down because they leave it feeling like they had less control over the situation.  

Kids need adult support to have hope and to encourage them to try again. 

For example, if a kid lives in an abusive home and they act to change the situation but it doesn’t lead to any change – that’s unproductive.  They learn to be helpless. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Focus on the process, not the product

This is especially helpful for kids who have a hard time with perfectionism and anxiety. Instead of saying, “here let me do it for you.”  You can ask questions like:

What did you do in number 2 than can help you in number 4?”

“Can you explain this to me?”

“What kind of process did you learn here?”

“Rephrase the instructions and let me know what you think they see?

Think long term instead of short-term

Do I want to fix this for my child right now or do I want them to able to do it by themselves later on

READ: Positive Discipline at Home: The Four Basics of Positive Parenting

How do you change if you’ve been doing everything for your kids up until now?

It’s ok to step back and tell them, “Hey, me stepping in and doing stuff for you is not helping you.  I see that.  You’re going to notice me not telling you exactly what to do as much and let you figure out more things on your own as I support and encourage you.”

That’s totally ok, mama.  We want to encourage our kids to learn and grown.  You telling them this is modeling how that learning and growing works.  

It shows that you’re willing to grow.​​​​​​​

READ: Working Mom Exhaustion: Mama, you don’t have to do it all!

Resources we shared:

The Sibling Adventure Missions

The Gift of Failure

Jessica Lahey

Download the transcript HERE

The best mom is a happy mom.  To better take care of you, download our No Guilt Mom mindset here .  These reminders will help you second guess less, and feel more confidence every day in your parenting.

Brie Tucker

COO/ Podcast Producer at No Guilt Mom
Brie Tucker has over 20 years of experience coaching parents with a background in early childhood and special needs. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Central Missouri and is certified in Positive Discipline as well as a Happiest Baby Educator.

She’s a divorced mom to two teenagers.

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