PARENT EDUCATION: The Key to Raising a Happy Child…Agency

Are you micromanaging your children?

By Robin F. Rishel, Ph.D., LPC

More and more in my professional as well as personal life, I encounter parents that are trying desperately to get their children to do what they think they should be doing. The reasoning behind this is well-meaning. They want their children to avoid being hurt, avoid bad grades, or avoid the disappointment of not making the band, the team, the cast. They want their kids to succeed and be happy, and they think they know how to make this happen. Some parents make it a full-time job. To get their child or teen to do a task, whatever it is, usually involves nagging, cajoling, threatening and all-around mayhem.

I recently read an article about a book that promotes building agency within our kids, I was intrigued. Agency is feeling in control of your own destiny. Instilling in our children, agency, or the desire to learn and grow because they WANT to—and giving them the control over this process without the constant nagging and cajoling sounds freeing for everyone.  It makes the parenting thing a lot easier as well. Sign me up!

The key, as I understand it, is less micromanaging of our children. Instead of thinking of ourselves as our kids’ manager, we can think of ourselves as their consultant. They can come to us if they need assistance, which alleviates the nightly homework power struggle. Overly controlling kids’ decisions and choices can lead to actually destroying their self-motivation. As parents, our job is to promote self-motivation with the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency. Will our children make mistakes along the way? Most certainly – just like we all did as we navigated childhood and adolescence. I still remember failing a 4th grade quiz on state capitals. You better believe I studied for the actual test after failing the quiz. Experiencing failure is an important experience of growing up and maturing. It can be quite motivating. Encouragement is fine, and support is recommended. Doing the job for them is robbing them of the opportunity to live their own life.

Here is the link to the book review if you are interested:

Anchorpoint offers resources to help you strengthen your parenting skills. Individual and family counseling is available as well as parenting counseling and support groups.