Don’t Do For Your Children What They Can Do For Themselves
Parents want all the best for their children. If only you could, you would keep your children safe from pain and harm all the time. However, you have to understand that responsibilities do not equate to pain and harm. Although sacrifices have to be made, responsibilities cause your child’s personality to bloom into a beautiful, productive one. You may think that your child should have all the comfort and convenience in the world but simple responsibilities during childhood can prove to be a major advantage when your child grows older. Think of it as laying strong foundations so that bigger values and virtues will come naturally for your kids. You need to understand that teaching your children to do things for themselves will save them from confusion and helplessness when time comes. Allow them to experience that life can be unfair and let mistakes teach them lessons. Besides, if you do everything for them, what would be left for them to do?
Generation Y or Gen Y is known as self-absorbed, lazy, highly emotional, unmotivated, and self-entitled. However, they actually excel in their fields when given the chance and freedom. This is where strong foundations come about. You need to have a keen eye to assess your child’s strengths and weaknesses. That way, you will be able to identify what to do to nurture those strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses.
9 Things You Must Not Do For Your Children
(1) Do not say “no” for them. Of course, you have the final word on what your child can or cannot do since you are the parent. However, let your children have their freedom to choose when it comes to small things. Do not look at them like they are being silly when they make their own cape and jump from one cushion to another. Do not say “no” when your child wants to try riding a scooter. These are situations whereby they develop not just their bravery but also their sense of accountability. Let them explore, learn, and discover things that make them happy. While letting them make their own choices, you can still do things to protect them such as in trying out the scooter. You can make them wear protective gears, find a suitable place to practise, and so on. Just do not say “no” because your child might get hurt. In adulthood, they will experience worse things. Letting them choose even with the possibility that they might fail or get hurt is a foundation for mistakes and rejections that they might make or experience later in life. It teaches them that their choices can sometimes make them win or may hurt them.
(2) Do not carry your children’s bags or change your children’s clothes for them. For instance, yes, if you don’t change their clothes then you might be late for work. Your child may be late for school. However, this will give your child the opportunity to learn that they have to adjust their movement speed and understand the concept of making such adjustment so both of you will not be late. It is a simple task that encompasses many different values. First, your child will feel the freedom to choose what to wear on that day. Second, your child will know how much time he or she needs to change and whether it is sufficient or not. He or she will learn to take into account the time needed to choose what to wear as well. Your child may even realise how it is more convenient and time-efficient to prepare what to wear in the evening. It will also teach your child consideration because it’s not only him or her who would be late but also you and his or her siblings, if any. Just make sure that you introduce your child formally and clearly to the task. There is no need to tell your child that you will be doing this because he or she is not a baby anymore. Instead, give your child a sense of responsibility, like your child got to a higher level of the whole game. Tell your child that he or she is now ready for bigger tasks and one of those tasks is changing clothes himself or herself.
(3) Do not choose for your children. Just like in #1, you may feel like you have the right to choose for your children since you are the parent and it’s just faster that way. However, choices enforce learning from experience. Grab every decision-making opportunity. Start with small choices such as which glass he or she would like to use, what color of toothbrush he or she would like to have. Later, you can take it a level higher. What he or she would like for breakfast, which movie he or she would like to watch on movie night, and so on. As your child gets older, you may even let him or her decide whether to play soccer or basketball and other decisions with some importance. This way, you will be giving them limited choices when they are younger. You develop their sense of accountability while taking baby steps in giving them the freedom to decide for themselves.
(4) Do not deprive your children of chances to do things themselves. One child is different from another especially when it comes to learning styles and learning rate. Therefore, you need to know your child well when it comes to learning among other aspects. First, you need to make sure that your child is comfortable with each change in his or her tasks. Do not prescribe what your child has to do. Give him or her choices. One technique is to create lists of tasks grouped according to their level of difficulty. You can create a list of easy tasks, moderate, and difficult tasks. Involve your child in the planning process. Let him or her decide which tasks he or she can take on. Check those tasks and tell your child that he or she will be moving to a higher level only if he or she was able to perform the tasks in the lower level efficiently. You can consider both the physical and intellectual development of your child. You can include tasks such as buttoning up, tying shoelaces, picking up toys after playing, and so on. Older children can have specific tasks as taking care of a specific pet or a specific plant in the garden. Think of it as a small project for your child. All your child needs to do is to water that specific plant regularly. This will also give your child a chance to discover his or her love for nature. Who knows, it may start with one plant to the whole garden?
(5) Do not “groom” your children. Grooming and hygiene are things that they will do themselves for the rest of their lives. Although younger children may not recognise the importance of these tasks fully, it is important to develop their consistency in these aspects. Ideally, children should be able to perform tasks such as putting toys away, putting used clothes in the basket, brushing teeth, clearing plates after eating, and helping out in table setting by the age of three. Later on, other tasks may be added such as changing clothes, brushing or combing hair, and more. These are mostly learned through modelling and demonstration. Therefore, do not feel guilty if you need to help them out from time to time. Bear in mind that at a young age, their hand-eye or muscle-eye coordination is not yet fully developed. Therefore, be ready and patient because it may take time until they perform such tasks efficiently.
(6) Do not clean-up after them. One of the most common complains of the parents is that their children are too lazy to clean up their own mess. Or some perfectionist parents will rather do the tasks themselves than guiding their children. Therefore, it is very important to teach your child the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves. This is a trait that a person can actually bring with him or her to adulthood. They need to realize later in life that not doing so may cause other people to get hurt. You can start by having them dust tables and shelves that they can easily reach. Then, you can ask them to help out in clearing the table after eating. You can also give them the responsibility of feeding the pets if you have any and bringing the hamper to the laundry area. In teaching them these tasks, you may also inject some lessons like the value of their possessions and responsibility in taking care of those possessions whenever they fail to put their toys away.
(7) Do not be with them all the time. They need to understand that you cannot be with them all the time especially in their younger years. You can help them develop in this aspect by not being with them all the time. You can leave them alone for some “me time” which you usually yearn for yourself. This will help them feel that they are still safe even when you are not around. This prepares them for separation from you such as when they already have to go to school. All you need to do is to make sure that it is just for a short period of time like a matter of minutes. You also need to make sure that the place or the room where you will be leaving your child is really safe. As your child grows old, you can increase the period of time to half an hour, to an hour, until he or she does not need close supervision anymore.
(8) Do not cook for your children all the time. OK, this one is not something that you should often do although this is nice once in a while. This does not refer to a full adult meal. First, you can start by having your child help out with food preparation until he or she is ready to prepare their own snack or breakfast. Teach your child how to use a dull knife in mixing, cutting, and stirring. You can start with teaching your child how to make a sandwich. You can also teach your child how to use different cleaners with the warning that these are poisonous. By the age of seven, you can ask them to help put groceries away, keeping the bathroom neat after each use, bathing alone, and making up his or her bed.
(9) Do not just listen to what your children say and fight for them. Children will be children. They will get into fights and misunderstanding – even adults do. Create a perfect balance of listening and analysing. It is easy to get pumped up because it happened to your child, after all. However, try to be as objective as you can. Involve your child in analyzing what happened and in enumerating the possible resolutions to what happened. This will teach your child how to be objective, fair, and to focus on finding a solution instead of placing blames.
Although you will be teaching your children how to do things themselves, you need to make sure that you remain as his or her comfort zone. Let them know and feel that they can tell you if they do not want to do something as long as they tell you why. You can do things for them like ensuring their safety as they try new things out but you also need to make sure that you are not pushing them beyond their limits. The key is in knowing your child thoroughly because as they grow old and as external factors affect their personalities, it may become complicated.
You also need to make sure that you give sufficient encouragement and that you sincerely praise your child not just in each achievement but also each time he or she tries. First, your child needs to know that giving it a try is nearly as important as succeeding or reaching the goal. Nurture your child with patience, care, assurance and love. These things will make your child feel more confident and will be more likely to try new things.
Start early so you will be able to take advantage of your child’s strength to help him or her realise his or her full potential. Later on, you will be amazed at how one simple task can teach your child multiple values. You will be even more amazed when you see how such small tasks helped your child in adulthood. Be there to guide and do not do everything for them – because you do not need to.
The writer, Ivylina Tiang is an International Parenting Speaker and Brain Development Coach. She is also the Founder of INNOVATE Education www.innovate2u.com.sg