For starters, this question is almost on every parent’s mind. It is perfectly normal to feel that we are over protecting our children at times, while feeling that we don’t help them enough at other times!
Being a part of a mommy group gives me an opportunity to interact with parents of similar age groups of my child. We are a group of eight mothers, who know each other right from the time our little ones were about a year old. Thanks to the constant visits to play areas! Our children are a mix – some clingy, some shy, some chatty and few, very naughty! We talk about children, food, school matters, activities etc. We also discuss our interests and hobbies- reading, dancing, cooking and how to balance between all of this. Last week I had organized a play date for my little one and while the children were busy playing with their toys, we mothers spoke about how independent our little ones had become! A year back most of us were in the phase where we were not sure how to deal with our child, whether to let them do things on their own, where to support them and whether we were doing the right thing!! We had discussed amongst ourselves and decided that in the next one year we would sincerely follow what we had discussed. For the benefit of our readers, I am publishing points of our discussion here.
- Observe and give them freedom: Right from an early age, it is important we let our children do things by themselves. Sometimes when we see our child struggling with doing something, our first instinct is to help them. Reena mentioned how her daughter Janvi had even as a four year old, come to her for everything-for dressing up, for combing hair etc . One fine day, she decided to be firm with her toddler. She gently made her daughter understand that she had to at least try doing the things by herself before coming to Reena. She encouraged her to wear her dress herself, her shoes ,comb her hair etc, while Reena stood by ,stepping in only when necessary. Most of the times, we just assume that the child is too small to do things herself/himself, is it not? How wrong we can be!
- Perfection is never the aim: Always remember, it is important to keep in mind that never aim for perfection with your little ones. Let them try on their own, the effort is far more important than the outcome. The day they complete the task, their sense of achievement would multiply as they know they did it on their own! A fellow mom Deepa recollected how she had to rein in her own temptation to jump in and help whenever Ronav was on the verge of reaching the highest point of the climbing maze in the play area. She shared her experience of how she would support him whenever he fell. The glee on his face on the day he crossed the highest point entirely on his own- words cannot capture that, she said!
- Give them small goals to achieve: For the toddlers, set smaller goals to start with. Something as simple as opening a bottle all by themselves is also sufficient. As they say, it may be a small goal when we think of it, but it is always an important one for them.
- Encourage your child to read independently: One of the best ways in which we can encourage independent behaviour in our little one is, by making them read on their own. Even if they read one word or one sentence on their own, it is enough to boost their self-confidence. Never use the word ‘No’ with them especially while reading to them. IF they make mistakes, never say “No,thats not the correct word.” Instead just read out the correct word.
- Give your little one tasks to do: When Shruti was little, the living room was perpetually a mess. Toys, books, DVDs used to be scattered across the sofa and on the shelves. Picking up and putting them away neatly was a fifteen minute job in itself. It was another thing that soon as the room was cleared, it was a matter of minutes before it became messy all over again. This continued till a day when I decided to not do it. “Shruti will you help me clear up all your toys?” . And she did. As simple as that. I had never asked before, so she had never pitched in! A fellow mom however did not find it so simple to deal with her child. She had to use another tactic to get her child to clear up toys. She simply packed them away in a big bag and was firm with her child- “Tidy your toys, and you can play with them.” She would then help her child in the process too. Parenting is all about stepping in only when it is necessary.
- Speak to your child in the right language: I have found this to be especially true with my little Arjun. I always address him as how I would address any adult. Such treatment made him feel more like an adult. For e.g.- I would say- “Arjun, now that you are a big boy can you please put away your school books back in your bag.” This method has never failed me, ever!
- Allow them to deal with situations: The question is always – “How much is too much!”
We always tend to get over protective whenever we find our child dealing with other children, new situations, etc. While it is important to always be there for the child, we also need to gradually let them find their own way. All the mothers in our group knew that this was the best thing we could do for our child. After all, it is not always possible for us to be present in all situations concerning our child. The time period over which each mom managed to achieve this varied. Some children got used to mother being away by the age of 2, others at 2 and half. The duration for which each child could be away from the mother also was a varying graph for each child.
- Be generous with the praise: This was one trick that worked with all moms. It never hurts to praise your little one. Appreciate the little things they do, take time to sit with them and do activities with them, encourage them when they do anything on their own. A little praise definitely goes a long way!!!
All the mothers of our little group have been thankful for the support each member pitched in the last one year to help deal with different situations. Friends are a blessing and I am glad that my friends have helped me discover the successful mother in me!