What we get wrong about responsible and self-reliant kids
Life often seems quite unfair to responsible, self-reliant kids.
Or at least I felt that way growing up. I was a good student, I followed the rules, (most of the time) and I behaved well in school. My brother had a harder time adapting to a new country and school after we moved from the U.S. to Chile, so my mom’s attention seemed to always be focused on him. Now that I am a mom myself, I understand why she needed to do so. But at the time? I wasn’t so understanding.
We might not like to admit it, but children who need more of our help and time sometimes do get the most undivided attention. The sibling that completes homework on his or her own, does well in school, or is usually healthy can be much more independent and self-reliant. But looks can be deceiving.
Responsible children need their parents’ attention, too
The kids who are responsible and seem to always fulfill our expectations? They need us too. They might not require us to go over their spelling words or push them to finish their required reading. We don’t need to look over their shoulder as much, prodding them along, but that doesn’t they don’t need our attention, our questions, and our time. They just need us in different ways.
Showing them we care is important on so many levels. Since we don’t have to spend so much time helping them with homework, we need to make sure we spend time with them having fun. We need to ensure they know how much we value their achievements, that we don’t take them for granted, even if for them meeting (and quite often, surpassing) goals seems to come easier than for their sibling.
When we are stretched thin, it’s easier to assume that our responsible child is fine and thrives on their own. Self-sufficiency is great in many ways but it can also be exacerbated to the extreme. The problem is that unconsciously we are teaching these independent and self-reliant kids to not ask for help. In the future this can lead to other issues and mentalities that are hard to shake.
To this day, I still struggle with asking for help. I am still learning that it is not a sign of weakness; that it is okay to be the one who needs another, in any relationship.
Even if it’s hard at times when I’m going, going, going, I’m making a conscious effort to show both my kids how much I love them and care for them, no matter how differently they might need me. It’s not enough for them to hear me say it. I need to prove it in little ways every day. I need to spend those extra few minutes I would be nagging them to do their homework, talking to them, making them laugh, and having fun. It might seem obvious to some — to not “forget” one child over the other — but we’re not perfect. And sometimes we all need a reminder not to forget the things that are most important to us.
3 ways to support our self-reliant kids
If you just realized that you need to pay more attention to the child that least seems to need it, here are three ideas:
- Spend fun, quality time together. Responsible, independent and self-reliant children need not only 1:1 time with their parents, but also need to do things together that aren’t related to chores or must-do’s.
- Avoid inconsistencies: sometimes we tend to be more lenient with those we perceive as weaker or needier. Therefore, your self-reliant child might feel you are unfair or stricter with them. Evaluate whether you need to correct course and establish clear rules for all family members.
- Show that it is okay to ask for help and to be imperfect: kids who are responsible and independent can sometimes feel the need to be perfect. Model behavior by showing how YOU are okay with asking for helping and that it’s human to be imperfect. You might realize that you also have room to improve in this areas.
Having a self-reliant child might seem easier but don’t forget them simply because they are less-demanding.