A one year old boy struggles to climb up the obstacles at the Play Place. The mother does nothing to help. A two year old girl bumps her head and is not sure how to respond; her mother does not even seem to notice. A child barely 2.5 feet tall struggles to put on a shoe, or open the safety door of the playground and receives no aid from either parent for several minutes. Do these parents drive you batty?
I am that parent.
Yep, that’s me. But, hear me out!! There is a reason.
I am not lazy.
I don’t know what goes on in other mother’s heads when I get “The Look,” but I assume they blame laziness or apathy on my lack of quick response. Not so.
It is actually harder to do nothing.
Think about a mother’s natural response when a child falls down or is struggling to straighten their shirt. Now imagine NOT doing that as a mother. Sounds cruel I know, but continue to bear with me.
Why let a child struggle?
How has life treated you since you left home? Has everything been easy? Everyone’s life story, perspective, worldview and experiences are different but I imagine we all realize the need to be prepared for a life that requires independence, trying and yes, even struggling and hardship.
I just want to prepare my children.
I will spare you an extended list of experiences, but suffice it to say that I began babysitting my 6 siblings at the age of 11 and have been working in children’s ministry and daycare since 14. I have a lot of experience, despite my young-ish age and I have seen a LOT of minor bumps ,scrapes and triumphs. I have learned that children derive either confidence or stress/worry from parents/teachers.
What does this look like?
It looks much like the first paragraph describes. If my children are trying to do something safe, I do not interfere, not even if it is difficult for them. If they begin to be frustrated, I will then suggest that they ask for help if they need or just offer to help. Out of respect, I don’t help without permission, that would be condescending and would not promote self confidence.
If they get a minor “uh-oh,” as we call them, I do not draw attention to it. If my son does come up to me whining about a hurt, I respond positively. “Did you get a bonk?!” I’ll ask like he won a prize or something. I’ll offer a high five, or tell him how brave he is; and he smiles and walks away, confident and proud.
Children derive many actions, reaction and emotions from their parents.
Honestly, how many times have you seen a young child bump or fall and look around before responding? I don’t respond first, or I respond with a positive “way to go!” So the child can move on with his or her merry way.
To what end?
I want my children to learn from their mistakes, to cope with minor issues on their own and to grow as they see fit. I don’t give my one year old his shoes to put on himself, but if he is trying, who am I to interfere? If I begin to pull his pants up and he says, “I do it!” I believe he has the right to try….and try….and try, until he is satisfied with himself and gives me permission to continue. It does take patience for a time/goal oriented person such as myself.
Imagine a baby chick slowly, and carefully pecking that eggshell open. It is a slow and difficult process, but there is no aid for the chick who has never even seen the light of day. When he finally does break free, he is stronger and prepared to face the world.
Every time my children attempt to do something on their own, I really do see a picture of a baby chick. I want to help, it is in my nature, sometimes I want to help selfishly because its quicker! But in waiting and letting them try, I allow them to see and understand their limits. They learn what they are capable of doing and thus grow their self-esteem. They also learn when to ask for help.
“I can’t do it.”
This is a phrase that is NOT allowed in our house. If it is said, we kindly suggest two phrases instead, “how about you say, ‘this is difficult’ and try again, or ‘Mommy will you please help me?'” This does not frustrate the child, but it also does not let him/her think negatively about herself or abilities. You either can do it, or you can do it with help. Positive thinking :)
I want my children to know they can do ANYTHING.
They can attempt anything because they are capable, I will not interfere without permission because I trust them. If they learn to handle the ‘tough’ parts of being a young child, than they will grow to be the movers and doers in the world. They can learn to be happy even when life is difficult.
I am not a lazy parent.
I am a mother who has chosen her methods and philosophies very carefully and who takes her job as a parent very seriously.
If my three year old has her shoes on the wrong feet, I did notice. It does bother me, but she is SO proud to be independent and I don’t want to change that.
My daughter trying to make a basket like Daddy.
Me helping her “do it herself” at her request :)
Me running after the ball like a goof…my daughter absolutely thrilled that she got “so close,” to making the basket herself.
My 16 month old son (at the time) wanted to help like Sissy. I was hesitant to let him try, but he successfully oiled and put the peperoni on my Alfredo pizza. I did help by rotating the pan, but he was SO happy to be a blessing.
We love letting our daughter help in our ministry! She passes out stickers/prizes, says Bible verses to classes and shows students where Africa is on the Map and where Namibia is in Africa. This is her at 2.5, our confident little helper!