Help Me to Help Myself, Part 1
What if I told you that you are now, as you read this article, participating in a test? The actual starting day of this test was the first day of your child’s life. Then, what if I said that you will get the test results in about fifteen or twenty years. It’s a daunting prospect—having the responsibility of laying the foundation for the life of a human being.
There are many variables that you have control over, but so many that you do not– genetics, the influence of other family members, coaches, teachers, peers etc. So much is out of control, but it does not change the fact that in the end, it is your test and your responsibility to do your best to pass it. The greatest irony is that you will probably be the one to mark it and determine whether you’ve passed or not. This is not to say that other family members and society as a whole won’t have an opinion on your parenting skills, but at the end of the day, you will be the one holding yourself accountable.
No one can forget the first day of their child’s life or the first moment they held their ‘precious’ in their arms. It is in these first few hours that we begin to determine the relationship we have with our children. Our offspring give us many opportunities to select paths and actually determine the course this relationship will take. The question is how do we use these opportunities? For the purpose of this article, we will continue to refer to them as our test situations.
Your child cannot get along with a playmate in the yard—a test. Your bundle of joy has forgotten his or her lunch or mittens– a test. Your precious has made a mess of their room– a test. What do you do? No really, what do you do? These are the opportunities given to us on a daily basis to help determine our role in the life of our children. Your actions or most often your reactions set you on a path. This path might include servitude. Parents have an overriding need to be indispensable.
They become the child’s chauffeur, cook, maid and in general do many things the child could easily do for him or herself. This may lead to many complaints and generally feeling unappreciated. Phrases like, “I never get a thank you” or “He never appreciates what I do” are common remarks. If your child knows nothing different, he can only assume that since you perform these tasks almost instinctively, you want to do them. Why should you be thanked for things you voluntarily undertake? How did this relationship develop?
Somewhere along the way, for whatever reason, you believed that if your child needed you or depended on you, you would always have value in his or her life. Instead of taking the opportunities that came your way (and many, many, many do come over several years), you said things like, he’s too little or this would be faster if I did it myself. And guess what, your wish came true. Now you are doing it yourself. You took a short cut to save time, but in the end, your child is taking what little time you have left and using it up.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to listen, to really listen– to stop talking and doing and to start showing and encouraging our offspring to manage on their own. If we are paying attention, children are always saying in their actions and some eventually in their words, “Help me to help myself.” They are not saying clean my room, cook my meals and solve my problems, but show me how I can do this for myself. Nothing gives a child more self-esteem and a feeling of self-worth than accomplishments. We are here to empower our children and prepare them for all the challenges of life that lie ahead.
Food for thought- by Johanna Madeley