Daniel was working on his homework on morning while I fried eggs for breakfast. Not understanding a math problem, he became frustrated. As he gritted his teeth and whined, I turned around and quickly solved the equation for him. “There you go!” I said turning back to the stove. Instead of politely thanking me, he cried,“No, no! Don’t do it for me. Teach me!”
Later that day, I saw this exchange on Facebook:
Talisman Camps and Programs When is it appropriate and helpful to be a “helicopter parent” for your special needs child? When does it become unhelpful?
Natalia When our children are in distress, it is time to step in and support them. We don’t need to facilitate every event and interaction because they are not doing it the way we think is best.
Talisman Camps and Programs Natalia, we like how you say “Support” but do not equate that with “do for”
Ouch! There was my post from just a few days before along with a compliment on not “doing for” our children when that is exactly what I had done that very morning.
I completely and totally believe that, as parents, we should support and facilitate our children’s endeavors, be they social interactions or math problems. Yet, in my haste, I had taken the lazy way out. I did the problem for him instead of making a suggestion that may have given him the information he needed to do the problem himself.
I could have facilitated a moment of learning and confidence. Instead, my actions said, “You’re too slow. Here. I’ll do it for you. You probably couldn’t do it anyway.”
Reading the Talisman posts that evening, I realized:
When I am lazy or hurried, I “do for” rather than support.
In general, I have no objection to laziness. I am a big fan of down time, reading, lounging around, and just being.
In this situation though, my laziness and doing what was easiest in the moment, did not serve my child. Ultimately, it will not serve me.
We want our children to slow down and pay attention. I am committing to slowing down and paying attention myself. I will pay attention to my children and how I can best serve them.
When my children are struggling, I will take a deep breath and ask: “How can I help?” I will listen to what they say and provide the support they need. Instead of parenting by reflex, I will pay attention to the habits that are driving my actions and change them when needed.
It is infinitely more important to me that my children become confident and self-sufficient – including asking for what they need – than that they get perfect grades on homework assignments or act “right” according to some unspoken rules.
Allowing Success, Building Confidence
When children do things on their own, they learn:
I can do hard things.
I’m good at figuring stuff out.
Mama trusts me. She believes I can do it.
When parents constantly jump in and do things for them, they learn:
I can’t do anything right.
Mom and Dad do everything better for me.
Mom never let’s me do anything. She must think I’m stupid.
What are you teaching your children? Will you join me in slowing down and paying attention?
We can learn from what we say and write and think. We have all the wisdom we need inside ourselves.
I will be taking my own advice. When my children are deeply frustrated, I will support them. I will encourage, give a hint, teach. I will still do things for them of course. It is one of the ways I show my love. But when I do for them, it will be from a place of love – not because it is more convenient for me.
Next time they are tying their shoes or clearing the table too slowly, I will let them be. Except, when I slip and interfere and forget or neglect to be the mother I want to be. But I already wrote about that.