A while back, I read some parenting article that went viral. This lady was on a rant about how she didn’t want people to help her daughter on the playground. It was all ‘tough love‘, my girl’s gotta learn that life ain’t easy and that you’ve gotta stand up for yourself, etc. She went on and on about how life is full of disappointments and upsets and how if you can’t figure out how to be tough on the playground, then where else will you learn your life lessons? Most people wrote comments like, “You go girl!” Or, “Oh… your daugther will grow up to be so strong.” etc… But… not me…. I was rolling my eyes as I read. I see the situation all so differently.
I don’t want my kids to grow up in a cold and hostile world where they feel like it’s all up to themselves to ‘make it‘. The world is not such a place. Yes, there are bad things happening everywhere. Yes, there are disappointments. Yes, sometimes we get frustrated, angry, upset, have our heart trampled, or get physically injured… But, just because things aren’t easy, doesn’t mean that kids should have to always ‘figure it all out‘ by themselves! It’s absurd to think that everyone is just out on a limb struggling to ‘make it‘. We’re all in this together!
I remember all too clearly that feeling of nobody wanting to help me. I used to struggle with my homework and some well-meaning adults were forever saying, over and over again, “Katie, you need to figure it out yourself, this is the way the world is, you can’t have everyone do everything for you!” I felt so desperate that I often used to end up in tears and I would feel like such a loser! Was it confidence building for me to ‘figure it out myself‘…. um… I don’t think so. Not only did I feel stupid at home, but then, I felt stupid in school the next day because I never had my homework finished. Couldn’t I have been given just a little bit of direction? A little boost? Just to set me on the right path? At the time, a little help would have gone a long way… but no, I had to ‘figure it out for myself.’ I can still hear those words ringing in my ears years and years later.
Did it make me a stronger person to sit there completely frustrated and desperate all the time? I don’t know… I’m not saying that things should always work out in your favor. It’s the struggles and problems that we overcome in life that help us to grow. But still… can’t a kid get a bit of help if they need it and are genuinely asking for it?
Society flourishes when we have trust in other people and know how to skillfully ask for and receive help and advice. Humans are social animals and function best when we have supportive and loving people around us. I want my kids to know that they can always ask for help, if they need it. That they are not in outer space all by themselves trying to ‘make it’ in a cruel world. I want them to learn that when they can’t figure something out at first, then it’s ok to ask for help! It’s ok! Trust and belongingness go a long way in developing compassion and love in a person… am I wrong? Sure, there will have to be times when they have to ‘do it themselves’, But, the help they have received in other tricky situations will translate into confidence later down the track, when they actually have to ‘do it themselves’. Do you see what I’m saying?
I don’t do everything for my kids. My kids are learning their life skills. It takes a lot of patience to sit back and watch them learn their way. There are certainly times when I want to grab whatever they’re doing out of their hands and help them to ‘do it right‘. But, I don’t dare! They certainly need to figure things out on their own. They need to have failures. They need to have disappointments… BUT, they also need to learn how and when to ask for a little help! They need loving and trusting adults to let them know that someone is watching and listening and caring.
This morning, Margo was working on some puzzles. At first, they were pretty overwhelming for her. She didn’t know where to start, but she really wanted to do them. I could see that if I had just left her at the table to ‘figure them out herself‘, she would have become too frustrated to do any of them. She asked me to come over and help her. So, instead of just letting her ‘learn it the hard way‘. I SAT down with her. Yes, I gave her my 100% attention (gasp). I let HER ask me for help. I showed her a few tricks. She tried a few things. Then, she asked for a little more help. I gave her the help she needed and let her figure out the rest on her on. (This type of teaching and learning is called scaffolding, to be technical).
Within about ten minutes, she was putting most of the puzzle together by herself. The tiny bit of direction that I gave her was helping her, exponentially, to figure out what she was doing. I could see her confidence growing by the minute. By the afternoon, she came back to the puzzles and I could see that her brain had somehow expanded in her puzzle completing capacity after a little nap and she was finishing more and more of the puzzle on her own. She was stoked! I didn’t do the puzzle for her. I wasn’t her cheerleader. All I did was get her started.
Children’s creativity and learning capacity flourish when they are given just the right amount of help. Some kids might require A LOT of help and attention. While others may require very little help (hopefully, the ranting mother’s child was like this). Some kids require a bit of a kick in the seat to do something, while others only need some gentle direction. Even still, sometimes kids just plain don’t feel like doing something that they already know how to do, and ask for help. And, I have to defend them here sometimes… aren’t there times when YOU don’t feel like doing something? There have been plenty of times when I’ve been glued to the couch and I wish some nice person would go and get me a glass of water. You must know the feeling…
What do you think? Do you help your kids when they ask for it? Am I raising a bunch of whimpy kids?
(please let me know if you find typos… late night blogging=occasional mistakes))