“Welcome the Burn”- Harry Otto, Fitness Instructor at Lifetime Athletic Health Club

In my last blog, I discussed the challenges of being a “lighthouse parent”. To review, lighthouse parenting as described by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg in his book, Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love with Expectations and Protection with Trust: The Lighthouse Parenting Strategy allows children to ride the waves, while providing guidance so they don’t crash into the rocks. This style differs from helicopter parents who are constantly hovering anxiously overhead, or snowplow parents who would remove the rocks from the ocean. I think we all can agree that hovering and plowing are not best, but rather being a lighthouse parent is something we should strive for. Despite the fact that I am a child psychologist and a relatively mindful human being, I struggle in my ability not to nag, hover, or snow plow when it comes to my own parenting style.

So the question is why? I think the reason is that I struggle with the “burn”? What do I mean? When I start to let go or not hover, I start to feel anxious and instead of embracing the nervousness (the burn), I want to do something to get rid of it (i.e., nag).

However, I don’t do this in all aspects of my life. In contrast, when I am at the gym and taking a class like “Extreme Limits”, I welcome the burn. I don’t drop the weights, but instead I see the burn in a positive light. I see it as evidence that my body is changing (in the right direction).

So how can we apply this to our parenting?

1. See the burn associated with letting go and not hovering as a positive, as a sign of growth. Reframe the experience of anxiety in a positive manner. See for example, your heart pumping and the tightness in your stomach as a sign that you are going in the right direction. Yes, it can feel scary to let go, but we always need to remember the very big picture (the 50 year plan we have for our children).

2. Just like I wouldn’t take on too much all at once at the gym (I don’t pick up 40 pound weights when I am only used to 10 pounds), similarly start small. So for me, maybe, I will still nag and hover about the bite plate (equivalent to 40 pounds for me), but I will try to step back about what socks my son has chosen to wear (10 pounds).

3. Although you need to start small, you can’t go too small (reducing hovering by .1%). Lifting 1 pound weights at this point won’t change my body. So although starting small has merit, if we go too small, we won’t achieve the changes we are looking for.

4. Remember that by picking up the weights regularly, it gets easier. I remember when I could only pick up 5 pound weights, but now after consistently doing the work, I can lift more. By consistently making an effort to hover less, it will be easier to parent more effectively.

5. I will follow Harry’s instruction to “pick up the dumb bells in order to make my arms lighter”. Now on the surface that doesn’t make sense. How does adding weights to your arms make your arms lighter? However, Harry was right. When I first did the exercise with the weights and then did the exercise without the weights, my arms felt not only noticeably lighter, but stronger. So how does that translate to parenting? If we do the hard work now, later on it will be easier.

In summary, we need to reframe the burn we feel when we let go (not hover) as a sign that we are on the right track. We need to make a commitment to the work, knowing that eventually it will get easier. Furthermore, we need to remember that the burn may feel uncomfortable, but if we embrace it and don’t drop the weights, we (parents and children) get the positive results that we all are looking for.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Please check out my website at drbaruchfeldman.com for additional blogs and articles and follow me on twitter at Caren Feldman@carenfeldman.

If you are interested in learning more about lighthouse parenting I recommend, Dr. Ginsburg’s book, Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love with Expectations and Protection with Trust: The Lighthouse Parenting Strategy.

In addition, great news, if you missed my flash webinar: Be a Beacon: Lighthouse Parenting for All it is now available online at Expert Online Training’s website.