A young little friend informed me, “I do it myself!” As the adult just trying to assist with the zippering of the coat before braving the strong north wind, I was immediately struck by this child’s need to overcome this particular obstacle on her own. What I needed to remember in this vivid moment was to not overrule but to support her desire to complete the task alone. She wasn’t willing to give up on doing it herself, so why was I trying to make her?
I started PONDERing (my one word goal this school year) about children and self-sufficiency. All parents want their children to be self-sufficient, right? It’s hard to grasp the reality how one of our main jobs as parents (and educators) raising children is to give them the tools to help them not need us eventually. As a dear friend reminded me years ago, “You are raising these precious babes to leave you.” What?!?
As an empty-nester with children in the “real world” now, I can completely vouch for the need for self-sufficiency. From learning to walk and talk to tying shoes or packing lunches to driving a vehicle (oh my stars!) to paying tuition and bills on time, these outward expressions of important independence compound through the years. It takes confidence to master new tasks; the more you succeed, the more capable you feel to move forward. Yes, it’s tricky to know when to back off (especially when “saving” feels nurturing and may even save time), but consider the alternative . . .
A 2012 study published in Family Relations Journal found that young adults who have been “overparented” in childhood were more likely to have depression, anxiety, and a strong sense of entitlement. “Behavior problems will show up at school, in friendships, and later down the line at work and with life partners,” notes Dr. Marti Erickson, of the series Mom Enough. “There’s often an inability to handle tasks without a great deal of direction and support, which wears other people out.” This is strong observation for those who only have the best intentions behind their constant coddling. The reality is our children are wired to wriggle out of our grasp and are truly made to be self-sufficient as they grow. Basically what we need to remember is not to overcome all the obstacles for them; if we don’t allow them to “do it myself,” they will eventually give up.
In reading Sheri Noga’s book Have The Guts To Do It Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children In An Era Of Indulgence, she points out that, at our core, we simply don’t want to see our children suffer for even a second! “Most parents know what their children are capable of, but step in too soon to save them or to make things easier for them immediately; long term benefits, though, should always trump momentary discomfort every time.”
So ask yourself these questions before you rush right in with help on task:
- Is my child in any real danger?
- Can I live with the outcome?
- What’s the best-and-worst-case scenario?
- Does my child have the necessary skills to do this?
If there is no real danger and the child has the skills, then back away and be the secure base so your child can venture out; she knows you are there in case of serious trouble. 🙂
We will continue to PONDER this idea of our DIY children. When raising children the days are really long sometimes, but the years are far too short…especially when you hear the words, “I do it myself!” 🙂
Note: We enJOYed 2015 seconds of uninterrupted reading today as we “Warmed Up To Reading in 2015!” Thanks for sending so many books!