This is my ever growing list of parenting tips, with examples. Enjoy!
How to foster independence
Scene: Playground sandbox. A construction toy! It’s a seat with two long handles that work independently of each other to operate a scoop.
Enter: Boy, age 3. He climbs up onto the seat and eagerly leans toward the handles. He cannot reach.
Enter: Grandpa. “Here, you pull these handles.” Grandpa pushes them toward the boy. The boy grasps the handles but doesn’t immediately know how they work. “Help him,” Grandma says. Grandpa starts to operate the handles: one to lift and lower the scoop; one to rock the scoop into the sandbox and dump the sand out. When Grandpa lets go, the boy doesn’t quite have it down.
“Okay,” Grandma says. “We’re going to give someone else a turn, since you can’t do this.”
Scene: Same morning. Same sandbox. Same toy.
Enter: Girl, age 3. She climbs up onto the seat and eagerly leans toward the handles. She cannot reach.
Nearby: Her mother sits with a book. She smiles encouragingly as the girl tries to get at both handles. Another child comes over and pushes one handle toward the girl. She’s able to get the other. The girl grasps the handles but doesn’t immediately know how they work. She tries this and that. “Help me,” she calls to her mother. “Hmm. Try putting your feet here,” her mother says, aiming to improve her leverage. Mom sits back down. The girl starts experimenting with the handles. After a while, she is scooping and dumping sand.
“Mama, I’m scooping!” she says proudly.
So how can we foster our little ones’ independence? These playground scenes provide a simple illustration. We can:
•hang back instead of jump in
• observe instead of direct
• step in after being asked instead of before
• guide lightly instead of grabbing hold
• smile encouragingly instead of giving up for them, and
• let our children surprise us
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, instead ask what problem do they want to solve? This changes the conversation from “who do i want to work for”, to “what do i need to learn to be able to do that”.