I'll never forget my rage during an elementary school book fair -- at another parent. As a volunteer behind the register, my daughter Paris asked if she could help ring up and bag books. I moved aside and she began learning the cash register, thanking people for their purchase and asking others if she could help with their selections.
Her look of pride is one I'll never forget. Paris felt so accomplished. Thirty minutes in, a PTA board member mom walked up and said, "She can't do that!" Dumbfounded I explained that in fact she should, could -- AND HAD been doing it perfectly for the past half hour. Little did I know I was fighting a losing battle, this mom wasn't going to have it. She told Paris to step away from the cash register and promptly took over.
All I could think is, Did that just happen?
It's no wonder kids need us to do everything from tying their shoes, combing their hair, getting them water, preparing their snacks, to virtually doing their homework for them. We're such perfectionists and control freaks that even if they wanted to do these things for themselves, we wouldn't let them! Can I get an AMEN?
I can't lie, though, I used to be exactly like this until that fateful book fair fiasco, which was three years, two months, one week and four days ago. But who's counting? Seeing this mom tell my child she couldn't do something that she COULD do opened my eyes in a profound way.
How are our kids supposed to learn anything if we do everything for them?
How do they develop pride if they only learn it through sports and academic accomplishment?
At what point did we stop demanding our kids do everyday chores and acts of service to doing those things for them?
We know being a parent isn't easy and in most cases we do things for our kids to show our love. But that's part of the problem. We're robbing them of the opportunity to grow. It's much easier to follow Nike's motto of "Just do it!" when it comes to parenting -- things are done properly, requires no patience or do-overs and it just gets done.
But it's our job to empower these little ones to do things for themselves. In fact, we have a lot to learn from our kids. Over the past three years, let's just say I've learned a lot!
1. Kids love a challenge: When giving a child a job or chore that is new and even difficult, despite some frustration, most will feel incredible pride once it is accomplished.
2. Kids like direction: If it is something they've never done before, give a QUICK demonstration of what's expected and step out of the way.
3. Kids feel pride in helping: No matter how difficult to watch the dishwasher be loaded differently than you do, resist all temptation to step in and fix it
4. Kids love praise: The golden rule is to always thank your child for helping. While chores develop work ethic, it feels good to be appreciated. This is not "Hey, every kids gets a trophy for participating" kind of praise; more like "Way to be part of the team."
5. Kids like to impress: Kids are capable of much more than we realize. While you may not think your eight year old can properly mop the floors and fold a load of laundry -- you would be surprised.
6. Kids like to help! As parents, we have more to do than time to do it. Extra hands on deck means getting things done in half the time -- you can then use that time to go for a walk, work in your garden or do something just for you (a.k.a. work on getting your girl back)!
When I was around 7, I had the responsibility of doing the dishes. I'll never forget the time I plugged the sink, turned on the water, added the dish soap and walked away to use the restroom. Like any kid, I got distracted along the way and when I returned the sink was overflowing with white, soapy bubbles all over the floor. I didn't get in trouble, I simply cleaned up my mess.
While a single moment in time, I learned that when doing dishes, you don't plug the sink, leave the water running and walk away! Life is full of amazing lessons -- some small, some big and until we begin to let our children assume responsibility and participate fully in all aspects of life they are going to miss some of the most valuable lessons of all.
I can only imagine how different the kids in my daughter's school would have felt if they not only were able to come to the book fair and buy books, but if they instead unpacked the books from the boxes, organized and stocked the shelves, offered to help wondering parents and their children with their selections, rang up the orders, counted the money, filled out the closing paperwork and wrote up the letter explaining the success of the book fair and what it did for the school for the next newsletter. What kind of impact would this make? What might the students have learned in this unstructured, out of the class room environment?
I love kids! They are fearless. They dive in and just do what we ponder, contemplate and stress over. I challenge you to step aside and let them "just do it." They may not do it as good as you- in time they may actually do it better.
Written by Traci Bild- Author, Speaker & Entrepreneur. Get a FREE Get Your Girl Back Dream Journal and revamp your life, filling the pages with the hopes and dreams you hold close to your heart. Visit www.GYGB.com. Look for Traci's forthcoming book, Get Your Girl Back!
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