Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
I was recently speaking with my daughter and getting an update about her girls — Ava is 8 and Ella is 4. They are my very precious granddaughters, and I hadn’t seen them in a few days because of my travel.
Misty said that school was going well and went on to say that Ava is now setting her own alarm clock, getting dressed, and sitting in the family room prior to her mom coming out of her room. Ava doesn’t like to be rushed in the morning, so she asked her mom to wake her up very early. Misty said, “I think that is too early for you; but if you would like to set your own alarm clock and have some quiet time, you have my permission to do so.” Ava is enjoying that — getting up by herself, dressing, eating her breakfast, and reading in the quiet of the morning. Misty went on to tell me about other ways that Ava is successfully managing her own time and responsibilities.
As I listened, I felt tears running down my cheeks. Misty has the right idea about parenting, and I praised her for a job well done. Parenting is the process of empowering our children with the skills and attitude that they need to succeed on their own. If we are doing our job well, our children should be moving toward independence. In that moment, however, I just wanted time to stand still and for Ava to not grow up so quickly.
I began to think about the conflicts that parents feel. It is often tough to let go and allow your child the independence he really needs to be successful. It is much easier to maintain control, if for no other reason than to satisfy our own longing to be feel needed. Yet, we know that the goal of parenting is to empower our child to eventually stand and survive on his own.
Don’t get me wrong … Ava still needs her mommy and her daddy (and her Dee Dee), but I want to use this illustration to point out that we should empower our children to reach their personal best. However, it can still cause a feeling of conflict even when we know that it’s the right thing … even for the most knowledgeable child-development folks!
Don’t do for your children what they can and should do on their own. Perhaps you should take a minute to ask, “Am I doing this because he needs me to do it or am I doing it because I need to do it?” Take a few moments to consider these points:
1. Are you dressing your child long after he is capable of doing it by himself? If so, could this be about your need to feel needed?
2. Have you set low expectations of your children regarding clean-up? Do they take their dishes to sink, throw away the paper, and pick up their toys? Teach them howto take care of things.
3. If your children want certain things, refrain from always making it easy for them to get them. How will they learn the value of hard work, the thrill of achievement, or the principle of delayed gratification if you do not teach them? What holds you back … you or them?
4. Gradually give your children more responsibility as they prove they can handle more. Don’t go too fast, but be honest with yourself about why you are reluctant to allow them the independence if you find yourself holding back.
5. Talk with your children about areas where they would like more freedom and try giving it to them. This will allow you to see what they can do. Motivated folks – children and adults –always perform at a much higher level.
Doing the right thing and thus seeing a real win for your child will occasionally mean tears down your cheeks when you might have expected a great thrill of accomplishment. In the end, however, it is the right thing and your child will thank you.