How to Help Your Child the Right Way
There is a huge difference between helping your child and doing for your child. One action encourages independence; the other action encourages dependence.
Our kids need help all of the time – their whole job in life is to learn how to do things; that is what growing up is!
So, if one of our main purposes in life is to teach our children by helping them learn things, then we better learn the best way to do that; right?
Let’s take putting on shoes, for example. Usually when it’s time for our child to put on shoes, we are getting ready to leave the house, right? And with that often comes some time restraints: We are late; We are in a rush; We don’t have time to let our kid try and fail (Read: Let Your Kids Fail). So, we just do it for our child – we shove their foot in the shoe and move on.
There is a huge difference between helping your child and doing for your child.
But our children do actually need to learn how to put a shoe on without help. And how are they ever going to master the skill if they aren’t given the opportunity? So, helping a child means that we actually support HIS OWN doing of the behavior, rather than us doing the behavior for him. Both you and your children will benefit from attaining independence.
Build in a few extra minutes each morning to show him where his hands go on the shoe and the motion his hands need to make in order to slide the shoe on. Learning skills is about understanding the expectation (shoe goes over my toes, slides up my foot), but it’s also about physical repetition to learn how the body is supposed to move in order to accomplish the task. Ah, muscle memory!
Don't forget to reinforce improvements and achievements so that behavior increases!
There will always be times when we are in too much of a rush to actually capitalize on a teaching moment and we end up doing the task ourselves.
But think about all of the times our children ask for help – most of the time, we swoop in and do the task for them.
“Mommy, I need help putting the toothpaste on.”
“Dad, can you sharpen my pencil?"
“Will someone help me clean my room?”
And we usually just do these tasks so that we can move on. We walk over and squeeze the toothpaste on, grab the pencil and take it to the sharpener, or help pick up the clothes the clothes on the floor and put them in the hamper.
I encourage you to see every ask for help as an opportunity to teach your child how to do the task on their own so that your little one (or big one!) can gain independence. Think about the far fewer things you’ll have to do for your child if they could do those things on their own? After all, our kids won’t teach themselves; that is our job!