I’ve been reading quite a bit about parents who do everything for their children and shield them from failure, and how this affect the kids. Putting too much pressure on the kids to succeed. I get that. I get what the goal should be as a parent: provide the child to develop as many coping mechanisms to deal with mean people, success, failure, disappointment, happiness. But in practice, what do you? How do you get to this goal?
Take the situation in our household. O is pretty sharp and witty (for a 3-1/2 year old). But she gets into phases where she won’t do anything on her own. I know she can dress herself. She can brush her own teeth. She can put her toys away. Make her own bed. Brush her own hair. But sometimes she reverts back to this baby phase, through tears she asks for help. I know what she’s doing. She’s trying to distract me from whatever it was she did that was not good. Distract from whatever it is I asked her to do. Get her own way. But I know she can do these things on her own.
Last night, I told her it was time for bed, but she obviously doesn’t want to. So she distracts with many things including tears. I ask her (as calmly as I can because this drives me nuts) to go and start getting changed for bed. Then she starts. O: I can’t do it, Mommy. Me: I know you can, I’ve seen you do it. O: No, I can’t. Me: You have to try. Only babies, can’t dress themselves. And you are big girl. O: I’m a baby. Me: Don’t you want to be a big girl like [insert name here]. O: I don’t want to be a big girl. I a baby. Me: No, you are not. If you are baby then you won’t be able to go on your school trip on Friday. Silence… Me: Now, why don’t you show Mommy and Daddy what a big girl you are and go get ready for bed. O: No. Can you help me?
This is the kicker. What do you say here?? She’s asking for help, but I don’t believe she really needs help. She can do it. Me: I know you can do it. You have to try. O: More tears. And then she just scuffs off to her room. More tears. She comes back with her pants an underwear off, with just her shirt off. Her pull up in her hand, with tears in her eyes. Me: You have to go get dressed for bed, I know you can do it. O: NOOOOOOOOOOO! This is where I lose. Me: O, if I finish loading the dishwasher and doing the dishes and you are not done, then no story.
I feel bad that I have to threaten. She goes back in her room. I finish my chores, and then she comes back. All dressed for bed. I make big deal. Mommy is so proud of you! I knew you were a big girl. The tears are gone, and she is smiling. Then she says to me, I am going to brush my teeth by myself. And her eyes get really big and she is super serious about it. Will Daddy be proud? Me: Yes, he is so proud. I knew you could do it!
But is it right to let her cry and not help her out when she’s asking? I do try to let her figure out things on her own. And yes, sometimes I do get involved if I think it’s not the most efficient way of doing it. I know that’s wrong. She needs to figure out on her own, and she does eventually get to the conclusion. I don’t want to scar her for life by not helping when she’s asking for it. But I want her to know that I will help her when she really needs help. Not when I know she can do it on her own.
What do you think? How do you deal with these situations?