As a parent it can be difficult helping children become independent. After all, we know how to do things faster and better, and sometimes there’s just no time for them to do things on their own like:
- Putting on their own shoes
- Zipping their jacket
- Going through an entire morning routine alone
There are hundreds of other examples, and there are times when doing something for a child that he or she is capable of is alright. But when it comes to helping children grow, doing things for them that they can do efficiently when they want to is like putting training wheels on their bikes when they no longer need them. They’ll fall less, but they will go slower and develop a sense of dependency.
When I Talk I Need My Children to Listen
Children are taught to be selfish. We do everything for them, and they are mostly allowed to do things that interest them. But parents need to ensure they are heard when they speak so as to avoid the frustration of constantly repeating themselves.
One example I have is that when it is time for dinner and everyone is sitting I ask them what they want to drink. If I receive no answer then I’m the only one who gets something and they can wait until after we’ve begun eating to get themselves whatever it is they’d have requested before.
This tiny struggle involves them acknowledging me when I’m offering them something. If any of them refuse, I’m not going to worry about it because it’s not a big deal. But it is a big deal to them when they see that for them to get what they want, they have to give me what I want.
4-year-olds Can Dress Themselves
My middle child is four. She is in good physical health and can run and play all day. When she started school, I used to dress her.
Over time, I slowly had her begin to dress herself. I put her underwear around her ankles and had her pull them up. After a few days of this she did the same with her pants. Soon she was putting them on by herself while I helped with her socks, shirt, and shoes.
I also had her put her pajamas in the hamper where they belonged rather than on the floor.
This morning, she ate breakfast, put her plate in the sink, then brushed her teeth, and put on the clothes I laid out for her. I’ll brush her hair before we go out.
When the Struggle Doesn’t Make You Strong
I am a firm believer in teaching kids to dig deep physically, spiritually, and emotionally in order to become better people. However, there are times when the struggle does not make a child strong. And this is when it is delivered in unnecessary forms such as child abuse, whether it’s physical, emotional, or passive (neglect).
A good friend of mine was the subject of a terrible amount of neglect growing up. While seeking therapy years later a counselor told him the story of how caterpillars must struggle to emerge from their cocoons as beautiful butterflies. While the metamorphosis almost kills the animal, not going through it will actually leave it crippled for life.
This counselor is an idiot of the highest order. While struggling to set a table, dress yourself, save up money for a toy, and accept that you cannot always be the center of attention is very valuable, going without food, potable water, clean clothes, a jacket in the winter, or a responsible adult to serve as your advocate when so many of every one of these things is available in the United States is absurd, and will surely stunt the growth of any child.
Children need to struggle to grow beyond their current capabilities. And growth comes from nurturing. Just as a garden needs sunlight, water, and the proper soil for which to dig deep roots and bring forth a proper harvest, children need love, attention, proper nutrition, and patience. And they need to struggle so they too can bring forth their harvest.