Push me, push me, the kids say when they want to fly high on the swings. Pump your legs, I say. They never cease show their disappointment, but when they finally do learn to swing, WOW, the confidence and joy they have! My children cannot learn to soar if I do everything for them! They are never the same after that moment. It’s more important for me to celebrate that success with them than for me to keep pushing them and never let them learn to make their own bodies move the swing.
I can’t, I can’t…I hear this so much. My answer is always, yes you can, I believe in you. You can soar! When a child is learning to put on their shoes or some other difficult task, sometimes they get frustrated. It’s okay for us to give them guidance and help them with the hard parts while they learn, but let’s make sure we give them the belief that they will get it. Because if we do, they will.
My main job as captain of these Little Sprouts is to train little humans to make it in this great big world. The world can be hard, but if a child believes in themselves, there is nothing they can’t conquer. My job is to observe, offer advice, keep the kids safe, step in when they really need me, not when they want me to do everything for them and to ultimately show them what they’re capable of.
My daughter taught me the best lesson about not babying my kids. When she was little, I did everything for her because I thought that’s what good mommy’s do. But when she went to school, the kids were expected to carry their tray to the trash and dump it and stack it. Since mom didn’t let her take her plate at home because she might make a mess, she dropped her tray on the floor almost daily at first. It’s embarrassing when all the kids clap for you for doing something clumsy. Let’s just say I learned a permanent lesson. Definite mommy fail!
It does not do children any favors to do everything FOR them! I am a perfectionist and impatient, and it’s HARD for me to let my kids do things for themselves when I can do it faster and neater. BUT! I cannot send them out in the world without the self-help skills they need, so I make myself do it.
I don’t like scraping mac and cheese off my wall and floor around the table and trash can, but how else are they going to learn to control their muscles and get the food IN the trash? So every day, they carry their plates, dump some on the floor, and put their plates in the dishwasher. I guide them to “clean up” what they spilled, and they get some of it. Then I read them stories, sing with them, tuck them into bed and go into the kitchen and start scraping. I feel great knowing I am giving them the very best of me I can. Of course there are days when I hate doing it, or am tempted to do it all myself, but I try my best to encourage them to care for their own messes. Over time, they get better at it and it’s easier to clean up. Any time I face a tough situation with a child and it seems like they will never get it, I cheer myself on with the motto, “They’ll grow”. Whatever phase they’re in, problem their trying to overcome, bad habit I’m working on, they WILL grow past it, and get through it. Kids don’t go to college wearing pull ups, and teenagers don’t suck their thumb in sophomore year, they will grow out of it one way or another, I just have to hang in there.
Here at Little Sprouts, I can give my babies chances to try and fail over and over again in a safe place where no one will make fun of them. We can work on a solution together and I can comfort them. I present opportunities for them to grow and learn.
We have a check in area, our “time clock” as some of my parents call it. At the top is an envelope with a foot for each child that has their name on it. Underneath that are 7 envelopes for children to put their foot out. As they find their foot each day, they learn to recognize their name and they learn some fine motor skills as they take the foot out of the bye-bye spot and choose a spot to show they are present today. Then at the day’s end, they put their foot back in the bye-bye spot as they leave to go home. Sometimes they stretch and toil and work so hard to get the right foot in an appropriate spot and I just want to grab it away and help them, but if I do that, I’m teaching them they can’t do it on their own. I want my babies to KNOW they can do ANYTHING they set their minds to. So I hold my own hands down and cheer them on until they reach success. Usually after just a couple of weeks they have it mastered and are feeling great about it.
When they are learning to use the potty, I work with them as soon as possible to pull their own pants up and down so they can build the muscles and the skills they need to be confident in their ability to take care of themselves even when they are wearing clothes that are hard to manage. We all have some pants and shirts that are harder than others to put on. Sometimes it takes kids longer to learn to minimize messes in the bathroom, but they can usually do their clothes all by themselves before they get the hang of aiming. I just keep encouraging them to take good care of themselves until they get it mastered. It’s important they feel confident in their abilities to do it. The kindergarten teacher is not going to take all 25 kids to the bathroom and wipe them and pull up their pants?
When children start to eat table food, they need to learn to feed themselves. I hate to see an older child being spoon fed by an adult. This is a crucial time for self-esteem building and children need to learn they CAN do it. I feel the same way about rocking older children to sleep or carrying them everywhere. Yes, it’s comforting for you to do those things for them, but learning to soothe or comfort themselves is a crucial skill. If they learn they have the power to soothe their own fears, and it empowers them to believe in themselves. You can’t go to school with them so help them build the skills they need to feel good when they go.
Children should be taught to pick up after themselves. We get tired of telling them, and just give in and do it ourselves, but then they don’t learn the self-discipline they need to care for themselves. It’s hard to learn to clean up as an adult. Disciplining yourself is so much easier if you are taught as a child than if you have to try to manage your own habits as an adult with twenty years of bad habits already. Do your kids a favor and teach them the right way to do things as a child.
It’s tough not to baby children because it’s our natural instinct as parents and because quite frankly it feels good. I’m definitely not saying never to comfort a child, but there is a difference between comforting and babying children so much you cripple them.
Kids need to leave my care with a full set of skills to care for themselves. This will help them be successful, but even more so feel confident they will be successful. Believing you can do something is 99% of the battle in getting there. I think we all know that. Help your kids believe in themselves. It’s the BEST thing you can do for them. Encourage independence, applaud their efforts and definitely celebrate their successes, and your kids will be able to conquer their fears and be a great success in this world.