I read an incredible quote in Parenting magazine the other day and it's been rolling around in my head the past few days. Part of me wants to keep it and treasure it and use it to make myself a perfect mother (HA) but the rest of me wants to share it. So I will!
"Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child."
Read it over a few times. Let it get into your brain. If you're a mom, and you're reading this when your kids are around, wait until they are napping/outside playing/asleep so you can fully absorb these words.
I think this is something every parent needs to hear, at least once a day.
Every day, I struggle with the urge to prepare the path for my child in the mundane tasks. I pick out her clothes. I usually dress her, not because she can't dress herself, but because it's faster if I do it. When she's eating breakfast, if she's not "doing it right" I will "help" her. Read: Do it for her. Sometimes this goes as far as putting stickers on her art for her or coming up with exactly what she is going to imagine while playing. Am I proud of this? No. I am constantly reminding myself to let her do it, let her do it, let her do it.
I often hear parents saying, "Here, sweetie, let Mommy/Daddy do it for you." Sometimes help is legitimately needed. An object that's just too heavy, a climber that looked a little easier from the ground, or putting on shoes in the middle of a busy park can pose a problem. However, most of the time, it's O.K. to let your child struggle with something. It's O.K. to let her cry while putting her shoes on because she "can't do it." (My answer to this is always, "Don't say 'I can't,' say, 'I'll try.'") It's O.K. to let your kid put his sweater on backwards. It's O.K. to let the twins carry the watering can and spill more of it on them than on the plants.
All of this is O.K. for 2 main reasons.
1. Our kids need to learn to do things for themselves.
2. Our kids need to learn that their parents aren't going to do everything for them.
Let me tell you, I am just as guilty of this as any parent. I want to make life easy for my daughter. I don't want her to experience failure because I know how much it aches to look at myself and see what I've done wrong. I don't want her to get hurt. I don't want her to get dirty. I don't want her to take longer than the amount of time that I've allotted for that particular task. All of this is WRONG.
Our children need to experience failure. They need to fall while they're running down the sidewalk. They need to learn that, not only can they pick themselves up again, they can do it gracefully. They can sit and cry about it or get back up and play some more. If they need help, they can ask for it. Knowing when and how to ask for help is an essential part of social-emotional development, and if that's stunted, we're raising a generation of users.
As much as I want to protect JuneBug from life, I know that I can't, because that means protecting her from failure and that's not possible. FAIL, daughter of mine. Fail the test. Get in a fender-bender. Break up with the best guy you ever dated. Make a financial mistake. Do all of those things, sweet one, because I did. And I turned out fine. I know what I'm capable of. I know what I mess I can make, but I also know how well I can clean it up and make it right.
I want my daughter to learn how to make it right again. All by her big-girl-self. As silly as it seems, letting her pick out her own clothes and get dressed backward and spill oatmeal all over herself and take 1/2 hour to put on her shoes will equip her to do that. So let your kid fail. It might be painful, but guess what? By letting them fail, we're preparing them for the path of life, and not the other way around.
Brooke + JuneBug.