Every Saturday at my gym there is a karate class right next to where I work out. Weekly, I watch all these adorable children (probably between the ages of 5-9) go to class. I watch parents file their children in and hand them over to one of the instructors and then leave. However, time and time again, I watch this one mother go ahead into the classroom with her child, sit herself down, and stay for the entire karate lesson. I’m not quite sure why she thinks this would benefit the child because it’s clear to me and probably anybody else watching that this is not the best idea. The child does not spend his time watching the instructors, but rather his mother. He really isn’t paying attention to the movements/forms or connecting with the other children. The child looks over to his mother constantly for approval and his skills are not where they should be in relation to the rest of the children in the class. Why? Because he’s torn between instructor and mother and at this young age, mother will always win. He’s afraid to disappoint mom and therefore doesn’t take any age appropriate risks. Risks which are critical for healthy growth. We are talking about the fourth stage of psychological development called “Industry vs Inferiority.” Erikson coined this period as a time when the child must deal with demands to learn new skills or risk a sense of incompetence. I’m sure this is not with the mother intends; however, I don’t know how she cannot see the distress on her child’s face as he keeps looking to her with every move he makes.
Parents, let your children develop a sense of independence. There is nothing wrong with sitting on the sideline watching, but please no hovering. Remember, you are already larger than life to your child so please give them room to breathe if you want them to grow into independent, autonomous teens with healthy self-esteem.