Dear Parent Be Interested, NOT ANXIOUS
Parent Circle|December 2016

Our anxiousness for the success of our children often translates into fear and self-doubt in children. How can we turn this anxious interest into one that is productive and supportive of the child? Find out in this exclusive feature.

Joseph Holtgreive

Recently my oldest son, who is in class XI, slept through his alarm for the second time in a week. My concern for him made me decidedly anxious. He is a bright, wonderful, young man whose choices, at times, are in direct conflict with his academic success. That same morning, already frustrated that he had overslept, I asked if he had finished the late assignment he was working on the night before. The answer I got was a 'No'. To add to my frustration, he said, “I am super nervous that I might have a maths test today, and I haven’t had the time to prepare for it.” At this point, I lost my temper. I was expressing the anger and frustration I was feeling my mind was filled with fear of future consequences and a fear for his failure.

This is when the valuable parenting advice given by a wise friend and colleague of mine came in handy. He told me that, as parents, the best thing we can offer our children is ‘unanxious interest’. He also taught me that it is human to say or do things that may cause ruptures in our relationships, but that every rupture is an opportunity for repair.

After having lost my temper with my son, I took a step back and recognised that my reaction was unproductive. I decided to respond differently, in a way that would help him learn and grow. So I shared my concern and dissatisfaction with his choices and expressed my desire to help. I gave my son a hug, and told him that I loved him even though his behaviour may drive me crazy at times.

This experience takes me to one of the most important concepts of engineering – friction. When designing or analysing any system, it is essential to understand where friction will occur. If not managed properly, friction can result in significant energy loss, potentially leading to a system failure. It is equally true that without friction there is no traction, and without traction, we can’t build momentum. The challenge is to find the balance between productive and unproductive friction.

OUR ‘ANXIOUS INTEREST’ VALIDATES A CHILD’S SELF-DOUBT

‘Anxious interest’ for our child’s success is a good example of unproductive friction. Our love for our children and our desire to help them find success makes us anxious, especially when they are facing a challenge or they can’t find motivation. It is not wrong or unusual to experience anxiety for our children’s well-being, particularly when they are struggling to find success in important areas of their lives. When we allow ourselves to be carried away by the fear that our children will not find the future success we wish for them, problems begin.

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