Sometimes the hardest thing for a parent to do is nothing.
There are moments in the life of a child when, by their own estimation, it might make the most sense for them to give up. The math drills are too tough, the song too complex, the baseball too fast to hit, the disagreement with a friend too upsetting.
As difficult as such times may be for the child, they can be just as trying for the parent. After all, no one likes to see those closest to them discouraged. What to do? One way through is for the parent to simply solve the problem for the child. In terms of removing a problem, this is a very effective approach. Right away both will be unburdened and ready to move on, relieved. Unfortunately, the lesson learned by both parent and child is the same: parents are good at solving children’s problems.
For the sake of the child and parent, a better lesson to be learned is this: my child is now better equipped to handle a similar problem in the future. How does a parent teach this lesson? One answer of many: by being an ear not a mouth.
When the parent’s first reaction is to tell the child how to solve the problem, they are being a mouth; imposing their judgment, conviction and perspective. The solution may be a very good one, but it is still not the child’s. By offering a predetermined resolution, they are not allowing the child to use and develop two of their best and natural qualities: reason and imagination – key ingredients needed for problem-solving. Children have plenty of both and the more they can exercise them, the better.
When the parent is being an ear, they listen to the child. It is likely the child has a good solution in mind but needs help with its execution in a world made for adults. Help them sort this out. As Mr. Hubbard put it, “Try to find out what a child’s problem really is and, without crushing their own solutions, try to help them solve them.” Certainly, the parent can and should guide the child along paths of logic as best they can, but in the end, the young man or woman should come to their own conclusions. This can be made possible when the parent is being an ear, not a mouth.
Headmaster – Delphi Academy of Florida