Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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“I can do it Mom! You know I can!”

independence

“I can do it Mom! You know I can!”

A familiar phrase from my five-year-old. I reached for the milk to pour in his cup at dinner time, when he reminded me that he is capable of doing this for himself. He’s been reminding me more and more lately that he can do many of the things I’ve built into my routine of doing for him. Whether it’s pouring milk or “fixing” his hair, I’ve had to break my routine and allow him the opportunity to explore his abilities.

This mom is having a hard time with it.

As an early childhood advocate, I know the value of children building their confidence by trying and mastering new skills. I know that a sense of responsibility can help build a collaborative relationship among our family. I know that he’s five and really can do a lot of things on his own. Then the mom in me thinks that my baby really can’t be old enough to take care of most of his needs on his own without my help. He can’t be…or can he?

When I step back and allow him to show me what he can do, he exceeds my expectations. Aside from pouring drinks, cutting food, and dressing himself, he’s shown that he can read, spell, and be a nurturing big brother to his two-year-old sidekick. I can see that when I step back and allow his experiences to guide him, he shows me he has listened and paid attention to my direction.

As he prepares to start Kindergarten, we’ve made a conscious effort at home to give as many opportunities as we can for him to do things on his own.  Of course he needs help sometimes and we’re definitely there to guide him—but it seems to make all the difference to him if he’s tried his way first and asks for help on his own. It is reassuring to me that he values his abilities enough to try things on his own, and also understands that mom and dad are a safe home base to come back to.

The next time he tells me “I can do it Mom!” I’ll reply with a “You’re right, you can do it!” and hand over the task to his capable hands.


Trying New Things

toddler-playingWhen my 8-year-old daughter was only 9 months I was in a tough spot. I was faced with what I thought that day was a huge decision. I was asked to move her from the safe, soft, sweet, simple infant room into the loud, scary, falling onto, biting, drooling, messy toddler room. Technically it was my decision as I was lucky enough to have my kids in great care. Ms. Wendy told me, “Natalie is bored in the infant room and will do great in the toddler room getting to explore more. Think about if you don’t give her this chance to grow and experience this as she’s ready.”

Her comment reminded me of when my daughter was born and we brought her home from the hospital. My husband laid her on her brand new play mat under her hanging toys and I just giggled. “What?” he said and I explained, “Honey, she can’t even see those toys let alone reach for them yet.” He followed with, “How do you know? How do you know that exact moment when she will see them or reach for them? Why wouldn’t you put her here just in case today is the day?” That’s when my genius husband put his wife with all of the Early Childhood Education “expertise” to shame!

Ms. Wendy could see in my eyes I was still worried about my tiny, petite, little sweet angel going into a room with toddlers who were all at least 3 months older than her! She then said something to me that sticks with me to this day: “This is such a small decision compared to the lifetime of difficult ones you will have to make. For example, I am having the ‘Birds and Bees’ talk with my daughter tonight!” We both laughed and agreed! She promised to keep Natalie safe and help her transition comfortably. And she did! Natalie absolutely LOVED getting to go outside every day and play. To this day my still petite 8-year-old jumps at the chance to try something new and doesn’t seem to look at things as if she is too small to try—she will try anything!


Put Me in Coach!

Did you ever think of yourself as a coach for your child? Children have coaches helping them excel in sports; parents have coaches to help them make tough career choices, or even to be better parents! A coach is there for support and encouragement, tips of the trade and to help you get ahead in the game. But a coach doesn’t play the game for you! A coach pushes you to do your very best, explains the rules and then lets you do your thing.

Parents can be coaches, too, though sometimes the urge to “micro-manage” our children can be difficult to overcome. Doing or re-doing what the child could have done for himself, commenting on what the child could have done differently instead of providing encouraging words. “Micro-management goes against natural development,” says clinical psychologist and author Marc Nemiroff, PhD. “It takes away the child’s experience and [impedes] his learning how to handle himself in the world. Part of the job of the parent is not to do everything for the child, but to help him do things more and more independently.”

Other parents are what we have lovingly termed “helicopter parents,” the subject of numerous stories about parents who go to college with their children or fight employers for them. There’s even a quiz online you can take to see if you are one! Helicopter parents have a hard time allowing their children to make any of their own decisions, and though their intentions are good, it may seem to a child like they are being smothered.

It’s important for children to be given opportunity to make their own mistakes and to live with the   consequences. It’s hard for us as parents to sit back and watch sometimes, but being the coach on the sidelines can be positive for your child. Checking in on your child’s Facebook page or peeking at the video monitor at their child care program doesn’t mean you’re hovering or micro-managing. You’re observing their lives from a distance, allowing them to create their own experiences. A child that can make her own choices, with your loving coaching, can become more independent and confident in their decision making. We’ve already explained the rules, and we offer daily support and encouragement. It’s time to let them do their own thing.

– Debbie

Photo courtesy of Lighttruth.