Some parents err on the side of engaging too little while others too much. I suspect that most reading (or writing) a parenting blog are not susceptible to the former. So, I’m writing this for the latter group of we parents who may be inclined to overengage.
Here are 10 instances when remaining quiet may be the way to go:
• Your kid has experienced a difficult outcome and indicates that s/he doesn’t want to discuss it. Our kids generally know that we are interested and willing to discuss what is bothering them. But, sometimes they cope by not discussing a hurtful event. Not discussing their pain can be challenging for us as we are hurting too. But, sometimes our child just needs time and space.
• Our child is dug in on a position that we know is not correct but which doesn’t put him or her on a path to a significantly negative outcome in the immediate future. All the time, and especially as they age, our kids assert “truths” that we know are not correct. Often it’s better to just let it go than to engage in a game of one-upsmanship.
• A younger child is being earnest while stating something funny. Laughing in these moments can seem dismissive. Better to bite our tongue or to try to think of something serious (not always possible I know).
• A teacher makes an error with our child. Compromising our kid’s teacher’s authority is kissing cousin to compromising the other parent’s authority. It’s usually better to either coach our child about how to respond (i.e., to teach an important life skill) or, when it seems worth it, engage the teacher directly. (Search with the word “teacher” on this blog for related tips.)
• A coach or extracurricular supervisor makes an error with our child. This may be more likely to happen when the coach/supervisor is a parent of another child who is likewise engaged. However, the same principle goes. (Search with the word “injustice” on this blog for related tips.)
• Offering our opinion to a teenager requires tremendous wisdom, at least if our goal is to affect his or her thinking or behavior in a positive way. I’ve found that ending sentences with question marks, instead of periods, increases the odds of success (and it really must be a question, not a statement wrapped in a question). It’s a teen’s job to be independent; part of that can be eschewing unsolicited advice.
• Our child chooses a friend or someone to date that we don’t care for. While you, of course, will ensure that your child is properly monitored, trying to control whom s/he chooses to engage usually creates more problems than it solves. If your child and your family are well, s/he will figure this stuff out with maturation and experience.
• If the other parent is collaborating with your child in a way that is joyful for them but bugs you. Short of this behavior risking significant physical or psychological injury, or consuming resources that will be significantly compromising to your family’s wellness, better to bite your lip than to be a wet rag.
• The other parent is screwing up with your child. To intervene, in front of the child, short of the commission of abuse, is to risk triangulation. This is usually best dealt with privately, if warranted.
• Your child experiences a self-esteem boost from an inaccurate interpretation. Unless you have cause to believe that someone else will burst his or her bubble in a hurtful way, or that the belief is immediately harmful, often better to just let your kid enjoy the warm glow.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could take our wisdom flash drive and insert it into our child’s hard drive? Oh well, it will still likely all work out okay anyway, or so I keep telling myself in the mirror 😉