Hi guys, this is Sonya and I was kindly offered this guest by Keane Spicer at WeTheParents.org – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Our children begin life as helpless, co-dependent bundles of joy. They need us to do literally everything. Their very survival depends on it. As caring, biologically in-tune parents, we meet their every need as soon as it arises. This is natural, loving and right.
But then, faster than you ever imagine, your tiny baby becomes more and more capable. He begins to notice things and grab at them. Then he starts to use his body – twisting, pulling and rolling himself around. The next thing you know, he’s walking and talking and has become surprisingly good at back chat!
Now here’s where a tension can arise:
As parents, it’s all too easy to continue doing things for your child long after he’s capable of doing them for himself. It can be a habit. Sometimes, this happens on autopilot and we barely notice ourselves picking up his dropped toy and wiping his mouth. At other times, we make a conscious decision: “It will be quicker and easier if I just whip round and tidy his room before dinner.”
But here’s the thing:
By taking over and doing the things our kids can do for themselves, we’re taking away opportunities for them to develop skills, independence, and responsibility. Instead, if we change our approach, co-operating with our children but expecting them to do things for themselves, then we give them the chance to become empowered and capable individuals.
Okay, enough abstract ideas: Here are 3 things you MUST stop doing for your kids.
1) Stop rescuing them and solving all their problems
When our children first learn to use their bodies, they soon get frustrated. Aaargh! They try to reach things or maneuver their bodies into different positions but their body simply doesn’t play ball. (My 9-month-old groans, grunts, and screeches like a pterodactyl when this happens!) As they grow, there will always be something new to test them. It might be a new baby toy or puzzle or just using their own body.
Resist the temptation to rush in and ‘rescue’ them. Hold back a moment. Observe. Give them space in which to practice, solve and get the hang of it. You’ll often see that they are highly determined and will solve their own problems.
Of course, be ready to help out. This isn’t about neglect or trying to force them to develop more quickly. Simply refrain from intervening too quickly. Trust them and give them the chance to persevere. Don’t rob them of the mini wins!
2) Stop doing all their personal care
By personal care, I mean getting dressed, putting on shoes, brushing teeth and wiping bums.
Before you contact social services, I am not advocating that you leave a small, incapable child to fend for themselves. Nope. I’m talking about when you know your child can get herself dressed, but you do it anyway (because it’s quicker and easier). Stop. Resist the urge!
Instead, create an environment in which she can do it herself, eg, provide a potty seat and a nice step. To begin, collaborate with her: “You do the first few wipes and I’ll finish off.” Come at it with the assumption that she is a capable individual. Soon, she’ll be empowered with the self-belief and practical abilities to do it for herself.
3) Stop tidying up after them
We’ve all fallen into the trap of running around the house picking up our kids’ debris. Stop! Kids (and even toddlers) are entirely capable of putting their playthings away. Use your intuition and gauge where they are at developmentally. You know what they are capable of and when they can do it. They don’t need to do it perfectly. You can judge it.
What if they refuse?
They almost certainly will, especially toddlers. Don’t take it personally. It’s entirely natural and is just their developmental stage. I like to use the Montessori approach of providing logical consequences. For example, just before bedtime, it would be fair to say, “if you don’t tidy your toys, then there won’t be time for a story.” Or, if they want to run out to play, “if you don’t put your clothes on, it means you won’t be able to go play”. Keep guilt and anger out of the equation. These are simply the natural consequences of their actions. They are making the choice.
As a loving parent, of course, you’ll want to help out and do things for your kids. Go for it. Just be mindful and avoid the trap of doing things for your kids just because it’s quicker and easier. Whilst this can be convenient in the short term, in the long term, it will make more work for you.
It can be tough as busy parents, but try to make time and space for them to do tasks for themselves. Respect their capabilities and expect it. This way they’ll learn skills and develop a strong sense of personal responsibility. They’ll thank you for it one day!
I’d love if you came over to my blog to say hi. Hope to see you there!