Do you ever help your toddlers to climb on a frame, sit on a slide etc. or do you ever help your child to do homework? Well, try not to do that… Sometimes, not helping our children helps them more than we can imagine.
I remember the first time I went to a ludoteca (a small indoor playground, for toddlers) in Florence with my son. He was about 10 months old and crawled around the place, trying to climb on a high mattress. I was going to stand up from my cosy sofa to reach him on time to catch his (eventual) fall, when one of the ladies there told me something that changed my life as mum: „Don’t help him climb on there, he’ll get there on his own. And if your child can climb on it, he will also know how to get down again. He will not fall down, unless someone distracts him.“
Ever since, I only took care that he wasn’t disturbed and just watched him during his climbing adventures. He did reach the top of this mattress, as he reached many more goals after that. I didn’t want him to learn to be on top of a ladder, I wanted him to learn how to climb it.
Did he ever fall? Oh yes, he did. He bumped his head, got bruises etc. but there was always someone who gave him a hug, a plaster or a coldpack. And the most important thing: he did stand up again.
The only help I gave my children was to observe them from a safe distance, in order to help when they failed in their attempts. Of course they got frustrated when they didn’t reach something they were simply too small to, but they learned that this is not the end of the world.
„I want them to feel capable of making their own decisions, developing their own skills, taking their own risks, and coping with their own feelings“ : in her very inspiring article „Please don’t help my kids“, Kate Bassford Baker explains, why she doesn’t want other parents to help her children. She writes about the frustration of a mum who wants her children to do their own experiences and to learn to be indipendent, while other parents feel that they have to help her children…
What I would like to point out in this post is that sometimes, not helping is more helpful for our children.
Our children need to learn the consequence of the choices they make
Once our children have gained some experience and know what they are able to do and what is more difficult for them, they will also be able to learn the consequences of their choices. I’m not saying that we have to allow our childern to do freeclimbing or bungeejumping at an early age without any help. No, everything should be teached and learned within a comfort zone. And it should also be in a safe context, where our child can’t get seriously hurt.
Not helping our children all the time, helps them to become more indipendend, more confident and even more balanced. Those who know me and who have read some other of my posts about parenting, know that I am a „Love and Logic“ parent. Foster Cline and Jim Fay did coin the term of „Helicopter parents“, who, like helicopters, hover overhead. They do everything for their children, they overprotect them. Well, a helicopter parent doesn’t help his child to grow confidence and to become indipendent. Jessica Lahey’s article abot „Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail“ gives a very interesting insight into the effect that overprotecting parents have on their children.
Don’t we all strive to have responsible and independent children?
While it’s important to perceive the needs and issues of our children during their first months, parents should know that at a very early stage they already can let them the chance to make their own experiences and solve their own problems.
It starts with letting the babies roll over, then crawl, stand up etc. by themselves. And later, at school, children need to learn to take responsibility and to deal with the natural consequences of their actions.
„And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather help them learn the skills they’ll need to navigate them now, while a misstep means a bumped head or scraped knee that can be healed with a kiss, while the most difficult of hills can be conquered by chanting, “I think I can, I think I can”, and while those 15 whole feet between us still feels, to them, like I’m much too far away.“ (Kate Bassford Baker)
Our children need to fail, to make mistakes. It’s better to teach them how to deal with „little“ problems while they’re young, because the older they get, the bigger the problems become.
What message are we giving a 8 year old if we bring the lunch to school that he forgot to pack in the morning? That there will always be someone who comes to his rescue. Well, a child will not die if he doesn’t eat his lunch for once. And the same applies to homework, PE gear etc. If children learn to own their own problems, they will naturally become more responsible.
So, if we let our children fail on the little day to day things, they will learn to cope with bigger challenges and failures later on in their lives. And they will become more firm in facing their challenges.
Please read also this very insightful post from Jaclyn: True Attachment Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting