When my baby was born I wanted her to grow up and be independent. Unlike regular mothers who did the baby talk with their children, I spoke normally like I would speak to an adult. I talked to her as I changed her diaper, washed her, burped her, bathed her etc., her bright little eyes always looking at me (I wondered if she ever understood a word of what I said). Days passed by and she grew up to be a toddler. Onlookers always mentioned of how grown-up and mature she was for her age. I beamed with pride. I was happy that all that talking and explaining dint go in vain and I had accomplished or at the least I was in the right path to where I wanted to be.
As time passed I realized that the independence was causing a lot of work and inconvenience. At age 1 she was adamant that she would eat on her own. This meant immense spillage, a baby that looked like she had rolled over in food (head to toe covered in food) and a sticky messy house. By age 2 she was rolling roti’s in the kitchen with me, wanting to wash dishes, icing cakes- in short do all the things that I would do(Imagine the mess that I had to deal with!). This is what I wanted her to be like but it was getting hard on me. The little child, with a mind of her own wanted to make choices from the food that she ate, to the clothes that she wore to everything that she had to do.
As things started getting harder on me, I saw myself restricting her. Not allowing her to do what she wanted to do and imposed my choices on her. Why? Because this was much simpler on me.
Many a times we see parents being in the driver’s seat of their children’s life way to long as it is easier on them. The children never get to grow up and they become adults who cannot do things on their own. They constantly depend on parents and older people to make their choices since they are never allowed to do so when they are smaller and now that they are older, they have no idea of how things are done! They also become people who cannot face situations, failures, rejections etc because they always had a person shielded them (or at least thought that they were shielding them). They just never grew up.
Though it may seem easy to be on the driver’s seat of our children’s lives, the right thing to do would be to take the back seat and be a guide, help them grow up to be mature adults.
How could one possibly do this?
Let children make choices
Although this would me that there is much more work for the parent’s it is good to allow children to make their own choices. To a 3 year old it could mean allowing her to choose between the two/three pairs of clothing that is laid out by us. This reduces the stress on you and makes the fussy three year old feel like an adult in making her own choice.
Don’t rush to answer answers and encourage them to use resources outside of home
It way easier to shush up that child who is continuously asking the why questions by giving the answers or say I said so. But in order to make them independent, show them that they have a mind of their own, we need to let them answer some questions by themselves. Like, when my 4 year old asks me why is it raining, I could say- “what do you think?” This encourages the child to think. The child might or might not know the answer for it all. But this at least gets them to make an attempt. Any attempt is good. We could also ask them to use trusted outside resources to come to an answer. If I were to say “Let us go find out in that book, or why don’t ask your teacher, she seems to be a person who is very resourceful?” This makes them independent of us. They start to behave like little adults. This is one of the first steps. Enjoy it. Don’t fear it.
Teach them to use mistakes as a learning tool
There are teens who have never handled money, gone to a bank, bought things from the store because their parents always thought they were not ready and that they could make a mistake that could cost them. Some mistakes have more consequence that the others. We cannot escape the consequence but if the situation is used well we can use it as a learning tool.
My daughter was 3 when she first broke a glass. She was always known for how well she can handle these things even as a little baby. She was holding on to the glass when it slipped from her hands and broke spilling all the juice in it and scattering the glass. She froze. She knew she had done a mistake and she was afraid of the consequence. My husband calmed her down and said it was ok and that she could probably hold the glass with a more firm grip the next time so that it does not happen again. She relaxed immediately and a smile returned on her face. She had learnt something very important. Valuable for life. She continues to use a glass to drink, whenever offered (under adult supervision –of course), and is now very careful of how she holds it, asks for help when needed.
Failure is the stepping stone to success.
Letting them face challenges for themselves
The new age parents are more over-protective of their kids. They don’t want to hurt them or feel pain or any negative emotion as they call it.
Right from they are kids, these parents give anything the child demands. ‘No’ is not the word that they would use. They give into all their needs from that overly expensive Barbie on the shelves of the mall to that cycle that they don’t allow their kid to ride. The first explains that the child’s emotion should not be hurt to the child would get hurt if he/she fell of the cycle. Let them face a little rejection when we say ‘NO’ to that expensive Barbie or feel a little pain as they learn to cycle. Let them learn for themselves to be strong as we stand by them and guide them, encourage them, feel their pain and help them move forward. Let us model the attitude we want to see in them.
As a parent it is our duty to know the child and challenge them sufficiently according to their age and maturity. As we give them space and time we will see them grow up from fledglings who need constant care to a bird ready to fly out of the nest. We need to help them grow up and not be over-protective. Let us raise our children into responsible adults, let us help them grow up!