Thursday, February 7, 2013

How Do You Know When To Help Your Child?

Your child is struggling to do something. How do you know when to help, and when to stand back and let him work it out on his own?

Here is a chart that illustrates my thought process in this situation:

Sometimes your child wants your help. If you can help, then why not do it? If you do, he will learn that getting the help he need feels good, and that it's cool to help other people when they need it.

Sometimes, you can't help in the specific way your wants you to. In that case, you and your child may be able to find someone else who is able and willing or figure out a different way to help him accomplish his goal. If you do this, he will learn that you care about his needs, that you are resourceful and creative, and that there is often more than one way to do something.

Sometimes your child doesn't want your help. If it is safe to do so, why not stand back and let him figure things out? You can let him know you are there if he needs you, but stay out of his way. If you do, he will learn that you trust him to know when he needs help and that you have confidence in his abilities. Also, he will have the opportunity to get better at whatever it is he is struggling with.

Sometimes your child doesn't want your help but he is doing something dangerous and doesn't understand the risk involved. In that case, of course you step in if you can. If you are unable to intervene in time, you can help by comforting your hurt child and calling for more help if needed. Once the situation is safe enough, you explain why you stepped in, and help your child understand the danger and figure out a safer way to accomplish his goal. If you do this, he will learn that you are looking out for him.

These are all things I want my children to learn. How about you?

On the other hand, what does a child learn when he wants help and his parent refuses to help him? What does he learn when he doesn't want help but it is forced on him constantly?


I have read a bit about this issue recently, and I think maybe some people are confused about it. I think some people confuse "letting" a child do something on his own with "forcing" the child to do it on his own even when he doesn't want to. There is a big difference. There is also a big difference between insisting upon helping or doing something for a child, and being willing to help when he wants it. The child's wishes should not be ignored in these discussions.

Here are the articles I'm referring to, if you are interested:

From The Atlantic, Why Parents Need To Let Their Kids Fail

And from Alameda Patch, Please Don't Help My Kids

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Truth About Having Kids

Before you have kids, you might spend time thinking about who your kids will be. You might think about how you will raise them and mold them to be a certain way.

You might decide you will offer only the "healthiest" food and then they won't even want junk food. You might decide you won't ever let them watch television and then they won't even like looking at screens.

Maybe you think you'll make them go to bed at a certain time, so they will learn to always get enough sleep. And you'll make them always pick up their toys so they will learn to clean up after themselves.

You might wonder why these and other simple ideas seem to escape the parents who have come before you. You think they must be doing it wrong. They're inconsistent and soft. Yeah, that must be it.

Then you have a baby. For a while, everything is great and going according to plan. Well, except for the sleeping part. But everything else, totally perfect.

Then your sweet little baby, who was going along with your plan without complaint, becomes a toddler. And your toddler has ideas. Your toddler sees a working television while out and about. She's mesmerized. She's curious and *gasp* enjoying it. She wants more. Your toddler sees cookies at a party, she sees the candy at the checkout counter of the grocery store. Not only does she want these and other shocking things, but it turns out she also loves some of them.

One by one, your toddler starts chipping away at your ideas, trying to implement a different plan. Her own plan. It's a plan to try everything, to taste everything, to sleep only when her body demands it and there's nothing else fun going on. Her plan is to explore her world and to immerse herself into whatever interests her. Her plan is to seek out the things that make her happy and do those things.

At this point you have two choices. You could cling to your original plan. It seems safer. You like being in control. Or you could realize that your toddler's plan is actually much better than your plan. If you dig even deeper, you might realize that your toddler's plan was actually your real original plan too. The plan you were born to follow as well, but most likely didn't get to. If you do realize this, you will stop fighting your child's desires and instead support her passions for exploring and learning.

The truth is that kids (people) come with their own plans. And your best plan for your children may be to understand and follow along with theirs. To help them navigate the world and figure out who they are, and not who you want them to be.