Holding children back with kindness

>>  Monday, April 09, 2012

Did you know many of you as parents, good parents, doing the best you can parents, are holding your children back? How? You do too much for them.

I go on a lot of residential trips with young children through Guiding and with the Church. I see a lot of kids aged 7-18 in environments they aren't used to, away from their parents, having to work stuff out for themselves. After one day I will tell you which children come from homes where the parents do the thinking for their children and those where the children are challenged to do it for themselves.

Young children are used to being spoon fed and this creates a natural mental laziness. When you ask them to do something and they automatically say 'how/where/why?' how do you respond?

Do you do it for them? Because it's quicker, easier, less frustrating. You are teaching them how to avoid a problem by creating barriers.

Do you tell them how to do it? So if they ever meet that situation again they'll be able to do it themselves. That's good right? Well it's not bad, but children seem to box that lesson off and can't apply it to a similar circumstance.

Do you answer with a question? 'How do you think you could do it?' said in the right tone opens their minds to problem solving. Now you teach them to tackle life head on, you open a world of opportunity for them. As they start to answer their own questions, they gain confidence in their ability to self seek answers.

You can teach your child the gift of common sense. Turning a "can you get a knife?" conversation from

"where are the knifes?"
"next to the forks that you just got out"

Into "are the knives with the forks?" and even "I've put the knives out too"

I'll let you into a bit of leader psyche, the children that have that common sense tend to be the ones that get the little extras, the ones that get to toss the pancake, crack the eggs etc.  Why? Because, like you, when we are under pressure, sometimes it's easier than trying to teach the child that constantly needs guidance. Of course we spend time developing those children too, but in harder circumstances it isn't always possible and those with common sense when there are bigger stakes tend to get first dibs.

Something else worth noting is that disadvantaged kids, those from 'less caring' homes or from care homes, have common sense in spades and they are often the kids that get the greatest benefit from these residentials because they can already do the thinking without difficulty and they relish the praise and acknowledgement as we recognise it. Children that aren't frightened to think for themselves tend to get more out of the experiences we offer them, they can push the experience further and reap more rewards.

The children that can problem solve also tend to be the children that learn confidence in their ability faster too. They will be the ones that move faster from 'can I do this?' to 'wow, can I do it again'.

I think teaching problem solving starts young, tell toddlers to put their own shoes on, watch them struggle, encourage, guide but try not to 'do'. Respond to questions with questions. 'where do you think it will be?', 'how might you do it?', 'will it pull?', 'Can you push it?'. Even questions like 'where shall I put this?' can be answered saying 'where do we normally put it?' not 'in the bottom cupboard'.

Do your kids a great favour, stop doing their thinking for them and teach them how to do it themselves. It'll give them a headstart. They will reap the benefits and rewards and so will you.


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