It doesn’t matter what age our kids are there comes a time when we need to let our kids do stuff. We need to let them do the things we have taught them. We need to stop reminding, prompting or teaching – and let them do it – or at least try.
One of two things will happen – they will be able to do it on their own, without you – success! Or they will not do it at all well – failure!
As a note on the side here: I have issue with the word ‘failure’ not because I want to remove that from my children’s lives, but rather failure in today’s language has a sense of finality about it. It is either failure or success. One or the other, and we define our lives by it. I rather teach my kids that failure is a part of a learning journey – if you don’t get it wrong you won’t learn and grow. Imagine the little toddler who tries to stand up – and fails. Imagine if we used the finality of failure in that situation – he would never try again and he would remain as a person who couldn’t stand – couldn’t walk, run, skip. This is of course ridiculous, no-one has ever considered a toddler’s first attempt at standing a life failure – why then, should we consider other skills our kids learn along the way as a failure? They are learning.
When we teach our kids there is a sequence that is helpful to remember: Model, Teach, Practice, Expect. Eventually we must step back and let them do it (the Expect step). If they do well, then the skill is theirs, if they don’t do well, then we need to go back to the teaching/practising steps and keep at it until they get it without us having to hover or interfere.
Let them solve problems
Our children need to learn to solve life’s problems. The skills we teach them, give them the ability to solve the problem. But will they? We also need to teach discretion and wisdom: application and decision making skills. They need to think for themselves, not ask Mum and Dad at every turn. We may have thought this through in moral issues – we want them to make right moral decisions without us prompting them – but we also need our children to know when and how to apply the practical life skills as well.
One question we can start asking our kids when they come to us looking for solutions is, “What are you going to do about it?”
I remember my friend started asking her children this when they came whining to her about being thirsty. The question made them pause and think. They could either go and get a drink themselves or they could ask her to help them. Both where appropriate choices (considering the ages of her children at the time) but whining didn’t come into it – neither did she just jump up and get them a drink. They had to think through how they could solve their problem.
How will your kids respond to life situations?
- Will they do their chores without you reminding them?
- Will they work diligently on their school work without you in the room?
- Will they help each other if your back is turned?
- What do they do when something is broken or missing?
- What do they do when something unexpected happens?
- What do they do when they have visitors turn up and you aren’t home?
- What do they do if someone calls needing help and you aren’t home?
- How do they behave at a friends house?
- Do they know how to keep a house (or only do their chores)?
You won’t know how much your child has really learnt until you step away and watch them put it into practice (or not). They will either fail or succeed. We cannot shield our children forever – we need to put them through their paces so to speak, let them pick up responsibility, let them succeed, or let them fail. A Chinese proverb says, “Failure is the mother of success”. It depends on how we handle it – but we cannot avoid it.
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So this coming week, be aware of the things that your kids know and can do, the things that you have taught well and they understand. Catch yourself and try and stop giving instructions, reminders, prompts or solutions for these very things. Instead see what your kids will do without you hovering over them. You may be surprised! You may be disappointed and if that is the case, then you know, without a doubt that more training needs to happen. But there is no point keeping on with the training if they are already there. Celebrate their successes by giving them that responsibility and move onto teaching them something else.
Over to you…
If you know of one such area, where you need to step back and let your child do it – share it in the comments – the very act of writing it down will help you stick to what you know you need to do.
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