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Inadequacy & Service
writes, "Are you helping your children learn the skills needed to get through their day, or are you doing everything for them just to get out the door? Here are some tips for fostering adequacy that will help your child gain independence while easing your stress levels."
A lot of parents say they had no idea how much time, effort and energy went in to raising children until they had their own. Some people fantasized about the amazing parents they would be while placing judgments on others for the way they saw children behaving. We had ideas that our kids would never get away with "that kind of behavior," that we would be better friends to our children than our parents were to us and that we wouldn't parent completely differently than our parents did.

I'm sure for most of us some of these statements are true and that we've given our best effort with the skills we have. However, there are times when life gets the best of us and we are rushed, or we're having a bad day or someone isn't feeling well and we are not the best version of ourselves. There are no perfect people and certainly no perfect parents. We simply do the best we can with what we know and when we know better we do better. You may recall I've said that before. I really value that concept because it gives us permission to seek knowledge, to learn more and to become the best version of ourselves.

Sometimes in our parenting wisdom we miss some steps under the guise of getting things done quickly, or believing it's just easier to do things ourselves. For this we'll be talking about the last of the series in understanding the misguided goals of behavior. In order for our children to be competent in something we have to take the time to teach them the skill and to be with them as they struggle to acquire and manage their new abilities. Often we inadvertently create inadequacies in our children and suffocate their personal responsibility and independence by doing things for them. Time is tight and when you've got a handful of kids to get ready in the morning it seems like a good idea to get an assembly line going. Someone once shared with me their morning assembly line for their children ages 3, 5 and 7. It included lining them up putting on all socks, then all shoes, then all coats, and in the colder months all hats and gloves. Then getting lunches and back packs and putting them each in the car. Whew! That is a lot of work. Exhausting! Particularly given that they are all old enough to learn and manage each of these skills. We have fostered inadequacy and simultaneously stressed ourselves out thinking it's just easier and faster if we do it.

Sometimes we know our child is fully capable of doing something, such as getting their own drink, putting on their shoes, putting toys away, but then we here "Mommmmm, I can't..." or even a simple request for us to do it for them. In this case the child may even have a meltdown if they believe they can't do something and that it should be done for them. Take time to consider how you're feeling in these moments. Are you feeling hopeless that they'll never get it and helpless to teach them? These are indicators that your child may be behaving with assumed inadequacy. Somehow they believe that they'll be left alone if they "cannot" do something, they may convince others that little should be expected of them, that they are helpless, that they shouldn't try because they won't do it right anyways. Sometimes they don't try because they don't feel like they fit in. We have to pay close attention to the message to determine whether it is about assumed inadequacy or their desire to be served (and therefore feel loved).

We perpetuate this by giving up and doing it for them or over-helping. The child then retreats more, becomes passive or unresponsive. Our role is to encourage them by saying, "I know you can get those socks on, how should we start?" Here are a few other steps that can move us away from supporting this insidious behavior:

- Take small steps to teach
- Avoid criticism
- Encourage any positive attempt
- Set up opportunities for them to succeed

When we take the time to teach and observe as they master the skill, we save ourselves time, stress and exhaustion. Keep in mind it's important to observe if this is a skills deficit that can be addressed through teaching and support or if this is something they truly may struggle with and need additional encouragement to continue their hard work.

Shannon Miles, MFT


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