Last month I wrote about The Top 3 Ways Parents Overindulge. This week, I want to tell you about the Test of Four. These are 4 questions you can ask yourself as a parent to see if you might be about to overindulge your child (or yourself....). This comes straight out of How Much Is Enough by my friend and colleague, Jean Illsley Clarke, along with Connie Dawson and David Bredehoft, so please give them credit if you use this.
- Does this situation hinder the child from learning tasks that support his or her development and learning at this age? (Note from Amy: remember that what you do for a 2-year-old might be overindulging if you do it for an 8 or 10 year-old--picking them up, cutting up food, pouring drinks, etc. Learn what is natural for children to do for themselves at each age and stage if you do not know.)
- Does this situation give a disproportionate amount of family resources to meet the wants of one or more children? (Note from Amy: when you have a new baby, or when someone is ill or disabled or in crisis, it is somewhat natural for a lot of family resources to go into that situation. Think about if it is an acute or chronic situation, and if it is something that is addressing the true needs or simply the wants of a family member),
- Does this situation exist to meet the adult's needs more than the child's? (Note from Amy: if you are giving your child too much or not putting necessary structures in place because of how your childhood was, think again if this is truly what your child needs or what you want. If you don't know the difference, get some help to figure it out--a level-headed friend, an educator you trust, or a good therapist).
- Does the child's behavior potentially harm others, society, or the planet in some way? (Note from Amy: allowing children to throw trash on the ground or out the window, continue with alcohol or drug addiction or stealing, or making light of them cheating is not helping them learn how to be productive adults. Find ways to teach values, set boundaries, and develop consequences. Get support with serious issues).
These questions can help you choose your battles as a parent. They can help each of us discern when to step in with boundaries and rules, and when to let natural or logical consequences play out. I find them very helpful when I am tired or have to make a quick decision about something that has potentially important consequences. Once you get used to thinking about them, it becomes easier to decide where to take a stand. Let me know how it goes!
To learn more or to schedule a workshop or class to learn more about this topic, contact me.