As parents, we want our children to develop independence and to be successful. In this article, I’m going to be looking at the phenomenon of “The Curling Parent” and what we can learn from it when it comes to raising an independent child.
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I’m sitting in a funky basement cafe with my Danish friend in Copenhagen and, as so often happens, we are talking about parenting. In the conversation she throws in the term “Curling Parent”.
“Like in the Winter Olympics,” she explains. “You know, where the player has a sort of hockey stick. She hits the stone and it shoots across the ice as far as possible. And immediately in front of the stone are these two people who sweep. “Swish, swish, swish, swish – so quickly, right in front of the gliding stone so that the ice is super-smooth to get the stone to go as far as possible.”
I get the picture. The “Curling Parent” is totally focused on helping their children succeed. The Curling Parent thinks by doing everything they are truly loving their child, but perhaps they are robbing their children of exactly what they need to develop the independence needed for lifelong success.
So here’s a look at The Curling Parent’s Mantra and then The Mindful Parent’s Response:
Let’s start by looking at what’s not helpful:
The Curling Parent’s Tactics
- Smooth every obstacle out of my child’s path.
- Don’t let anything get in the way of my child’s success.
- Do everything for my child.
- Protect my child from any hurt or disappointment that might come their way.
- It’s all – and only – about my child.
- Put all my focus and energy on my child’s success.
What can we gain from looking at this? Let me share with you a Mindful Parenting response that gives insights into how to support your child to develop the independence needed to cope successfully with life.
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The Mindful Parent’s Response
Now let’s take a look at the Mindful Parent’s Response to each point of the Curling Parent’s Mantra.
#1. I support my child to deal with the natural obstacles in his path.
Life isn’t a smooth playing field. There will be dips to fall into, obstacles to navigate and hills to climb, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Supporting my child isn’t about doing it for him. It’s about helping him learn to do it for himself. I want to champion him, not rescue him. My child needs to encounter these situations to develop the skills and the resilience to deal independently with challenges later.
#2. It’s okay to let my child experience failure.
I support my child to work through situations where she experiences failure to help her realise that when a particular attempt failed that does not mean she is a failure. Making mistakes is a natural part of the growing and learning process.
Failure is one of life’s greatest lessons. It teaches my child resilience. When she fails at something I encourage her to explore, “Why did that happen?” “What can I learn from this?” “What could I do differently next time?”
I model this in my own life as well because she’s watching how I do life, and my child’s attitude towards failure impacts her sense of competence and her ability to think and act independently.
“Temporary failure becomes permanent defeat only when you say so” – Jen Sincero
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#3. I support my child to develop physical, mental and emotional competence.
I support my child to learn to do the tasks that she’s able to do at this level of her development and I encourage her creativity. I support her to develop her competence and build her confidence in her own ability and decision-making.
I don’t do for her what she’s well able to do for herself (except on the odd occasion as a special loving gesture or when she is facing overwhelm and I sense this is an occasion when she does need my support to get back into her ‘green zone’ of clear-minded capability, which is another factor in developing a child’s independence).
I don’t do everything for my child because I recognise that love is extending myself to cause my child’s growth.
#4. I support my child to move through hurt or disappointment.
I recognise that hurt and disappointment are part of the journey of life. It’s not possible – or desirable – to prevent my child from experiencing the full gamut of human emotion.
I can think of these emotions as being like a train entering a tunnel. When I listen to his experience and validate it, I support him to ‘move through the tunnel’, and he learns how to find a safe space to discuss the challenging situations he’s facing. Learning to do this now helps him to develop important coping skills and it also means he will learn it’s okay to seek support when needed. He doesn’t have to do a “lone ranger” act journeying through life.
#5. I help my child recognise that other people matter too.
I respond to my child’s needs and at the same time model that other people matter too, because ultimately the highest form of independence is inter-dependence – knowing who’s on your team who you can trust to support you when you need it.
We are all on the journey of life together. I create a home environment that fosters the well-being of every family member (and that includes me!)
#6. Being ‘parent’ is a role I fulfil, it’s not who I am.
I am a parent – and I love that role. I am also a “Me”, with other relationships, other interests and my own dreams, and I also put energy and focus into these other parts of who I am, whilst ensuring my child’s needs are met.
I know that if I want my child to develop a healthy, independent sense of self it starts with what she sees in me. I want to inspire my child to live well by the way I view myself, treat myself and live out the dreams I have for my life, which of course includes raising my children to develop into happy, compassionate and independent adults.
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So, those are the 6 powerful insights which I believe every parent needs in order to develop your child’s independence.
Of course, the Curling Parent is an extreme, but it can be a useful frame to take stock of where we are. Read through ‘The Curling Parent’s Mantra’ and notice which of these tactics you could inadvertently slip into. Now take a few moments to reflect on the corresponding ‘Mindful Parent Response’.
An accredited Parent Coach can give you the support, help you discover key insights and relationship skills to help your family to interact both confidently and respectfully, so that home is a happier environment for all. For more about Val Mullally’s work as a Parent Coach click here.