Letting Them Do It on Their Own
by Jennifer Shakeel
One of the biggest struggles we as parents have is not trying to figure out how to be the best mom or dad in the world, because we are all wonderful parents in our own rights… but it is to encourage our children to be self sufficient. When we see or hear our child is having a difficult time with something we immediately want to reach in and take care of it for them just so they are happy. What we don't realize is that in the long wrong, we really aren't helping them at all.
I know as a mom that every time one of my kids is having difficulty trying to figure something out, or just had a disagreement with one of their friends and they are sad… or mad… I want to be supermom and make all wonderful and easy in their life. However, I also know that as a mom the best thing I can do is help them figure the situation out on their own. Part of it is growing up in the school of hard knocks I guess. My father was real big on making us do things on our own. I will never forget the time I climbed a tree. I was so excited, he stood there while I was climbing to make sure I didn't fall… but when I said that I needed help getting down, he looked at me and said "You got up there on your own, now get down on your own."He turned and walked away going into my grandmother's kitchen. I swear I sat there and cried forever… then I got real mad… and eventually got out of the tree on my own.
While it may seem like my father was being cruel, really he was teaching me a life lesson. Though I didn't see it at the time, I walked into my grandmother's kitchen so mad at my dad and as I got ready to yell at him and tell him I knew he didn't care about me, he said, " I knew you could do it. You can do anything you set your mind to." Now, I can tell you honestly, that I have done the same to my children. When they climbed a tree for the first time, I sat there while they figured out how to get out of the tree. To me it was fascinating to see how they got out of the tree, what the thought process was behind it.
Your child needs to develop the ability to problem solve and think critically, because mom and dad are not going to be by their side their entire life solving things for them. You can't be, it isn't healthy for you or them. Instead of doing it for them, help them figure things out on their own.
First, listen to what your child is struggling with. If they had a disagreement with a friend, listen to their side of the story. If they are having problems figuring out a math problem, have them explain the problem to you. Then ask them how they think they should solve it. It is okay to have them tell you about their problems, but you want to help them come up with their own solutions.
Second, don't do their homework for them. This was a struggle for a while in my house. Not because we were doing their homework, but because they seemed to think that asking for help meant that we were going to give them the answers. Our children would ask how to spell a word, my response, "How do you think you spell it?" The almost always got the word started right and we worked through the rest, or they really did know how to spell the word and just needed to know it was right.
A third tip, hold your child accountable for their actions. Children need to learn that there are consequences to what they do and that they have to pay those consequences. This will encourage them to think before they do something weighing the pros and cons of a decision. Learning how to think out the possible outcomes of a decision and how it impacts their own life will help them learn how to make better decisions and problem solve more effectively. It empowers them really and I truly believe that a big part of why kids expect parents to do all the problem solving for them is that they don't believe they themselves are capable of figuring it out.
I guess that would be my main point of this article then, empower your child. Offer them guidance, but let them do it on their own. They have to know that they are capable of figuring out the problems life throws at them… because at some point they are going to be stuck in a tree that you can't help them out of.
Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse with over 12 years medical experience. As a mother of two incredible children with one on the way, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting and the joys and changes that take place during pregnancy. Together we can laugh and cry and rejoice in the fact that we are moms!
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