Every once in a while, the starving psychologist comes out in me. Usually in moments when I’m feeling kind of lazy and am looking to make a psychological excuse for my neglect. Well I’ve gone one step further for this post and will actually throw out a parenting opinion and show a little video.
My training for parenthood started with six years in an elementary school classroom managing 18 six-year-olds, so lots of my theories and perspectives come from this background. (See this post for a longer chat about all that I learned from being in the classroom.)
Lesson Numero Uno for me was to step back and let the kids figure things out, make their own fun, and reach their own conclusions. This lesson was imperative for three reasons: 1) I couldn’t possibly be hands on with every decision and dynamic in a buzzing classroom of 18 students… I had to triage and give up the reins to survive. 2) Too often adults swoop in to ‘help’ and ‘solve’ and we are fundamentally depriving our kids from not only learning the skills necessary to persevere but also from having the satisfaction of overcoming an obstacle. Frankly, I want my kids to feel comfortable facing any and every challenge head on with confidence and strength… why would I ever get in the way by smoothing their every road?! Finally, 3) I’m a little bit lazy that way and frankly it was easier if the kids could fend for themselves a bit.
May I present my 17 month old daughter. She’s our youngest (so far) so by definition she’s getting the short end of the attention stick, but on mornings like this one, I had the chance to sit and just watch. And the conclusion I came to was this: if left to their own devices, children will entertain themselves with just about anything.
One of my parenting goals is to raise independent children. Problem solvers. Creative and cooperative. As I watched Martha go back and forth from her water table to the baby pool, I realized how easy it would be for me to step in and get in her way of discovery. Just suggesting ways to use her toys would derail the process she was going through all on her own.
I warned you I let my psychology degree rear its head a little bit here… the challenge I’ve set for myself is to be attuned and aware, but not to insert myself just for the sake of making my presence known. There’s a big difference between a game of go-fish with your child and helicopter parenting, but sometimes it’s harder to step back and let your kids be, than it is to orchestrate a game or activity!
Food for thought. Or a really good excuse to sit back with a glass of ice tea and a People magazine…
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