I was at Costco grabbing a slice of pizza and watched a mom, her older son, middle daughter and younger son get lunch. They looked like they were having a great time. The mom was about to go and get food for everyone and wanted the three kids to sit at the table and wait until she ordered and brought back the food. She looked at the kids and pointed to where she would be, noting they could see her. She was calm, firm and structured. The kids were very attentive and appeared to be quite obedient.
The oldest got all excited, raised his hand and asked, “Mom can I be in charge while you get the food?” The mom hesitated, looked uncomfortable and finally said, “No, your sister is more responsible.”
I cringed. You could see the hurt on the older boy’s face. He stared at the floor and looked like he could cry. “Inadequate” was written all over his face and my heart sunk. I hurt for him. I know the mom was trying to do the right thing but she missed an important moment to empower her son and give him responsibility.
A better approach would have been to respond to her son’s request with this, “OK what do you have to do to be in charge? Can you do that? Great, let’s give it a try since you are the oldest.” This would have empowered the boy and given him an opportunity to win his mom’s trust.
I know as a parent I don’t always respond the best way. After the fact, it is easier to see better ways to handle situations. But sometimes it is the small interactions with our kids that can leave big imprints.
Look for those moments when you can empower your child to take responsibility. Encourage him or her to try new things and practice their growing independence. It might make you a little anxious but the benefit to the child is worth it.