One of the hardest and most challenging part of motherhood for me has been teaching my children that we have to work at things to get better at them. I had an experience this Summer that made me see a few things so I want to share why I step back to teach my children these days. Some may call it good old fashion patience, which I lack so teaching my children to gain it has been quite the project. It’s something I never really thought of before having kids, or even during my daughters infancy stage. I’ll never forget the first time I heard my daughter say “I can’t.” It broke my heart. A part of me wants to laugh now that I think back on it because I actually thought children would miraculously know this as they grew. The level of frustration that both of my kids currently go through when trying to work on something whether it be lego project or a new sport amazes me. I know they are two completely different personalities but now my son, who just turned three, get just as frustrated as he is learning to play with big boy toys. He gets so angry and frustrated that it usually ends in a lot of screaming and him yelling “I can’t do it!” My response used to be “Their is no saying can’t in this house, we ask for help!” No matter how many times I say it, it doesn’t seem to sink in.
Sure I tell my kids until I’m blue in the face how we have to work hard to get good at some things. That we have to practice, practice, practice! I even go as far as to say “Do you think Momma became good at cooking the second I wanted to?” or “Do you think Daddy got really good at playing hockey the first time he played?” I know my almost six year old can process those statements a lot better than my youngest but it’s still one of the hardest things to teach. I also struggle with stepping back because it’s so easy to put our children’s shoes on when we are running late in the morning, or to clean up behind them rather than teach them that they won’t have a maid for them come ten years old. It’s hard to argue with a three year old that would much rather have you dress him than learn to dress himself.
Sure we get to see the smile that creeps upon our children’s faces when they roll over for the first time or take those first scary steps. However, one day this Summer while spending the afternoon alone with my daughter gave me a different kind of smile. The feeling of pride that ran through me that day is something I’ll never forget. It was the moment she realized if she practiced at something the end result can give you a very good feeling inside. We were at the local beach down the street building sand castles. I made a few and she made a few. I saw the look on her face when she compared hers to mine. I then said “Do you want to know three good tips on making really good sand castles?” She didn’t replay, she never does, she’s like my husband and must learn it her way, when I’m the kind of person that would take a tip from the stranger down the street if it was going to make something easier for me. I proceeded with, “Use wet sand, but not too wet sand. Press the sand down when it gets to the top and add some more. Find a flat spot and tip it over!” She proceeded her way and got really frustrated. I said “Honey did you try the three tips I gave you?” I then proceeded to show her exactly what I meant and watched her make it the same way I was working side by side. When she lifted the bucket the reaction was priceless. What was even more priceless was each and every look on her face as she continued to make probably 10 more sand castles. I pointed out how each one she made looked better and better, I said look at mine, the more I did the better they got. I said that’s called practicing honey! I’m so thankful I got to witness that moment.
Later that evening while I thought about the day I actually googled it. I actually found a pretty interesting article about Why Some Kids Try Harder and Some Kids Give Up. I then realized just how important those teachable moments truly are because this is when I get to show and model self confidence and learning to my child. We all know that sometimes it’s easier and less aggravating at times to do things for our children, but we also have to stop and think about just how important it is for us to take a step back and just observe. As my daughter who will be six next month gets older I’m seeing the pure joy on her face when she accomplishes something she’s been working hard on. Last week it happened to be her time to master riding a bike. She is the kind of kid that when she is ready to accomplish something she is ready. I should have known because when I think back over the past few years she was even like that as a little toddler. When she decided she was ready to go potty, she was ready. She put on her big girl pants and never had one accident. When my daughter asked my husband if he would take off the”little wheels” from her bicycle I have to admit I was quite nervous. I knew it was going to take days for her to actually learn so I went about my evening getting ready for our next day. I happened to glance out the window while putting away laundry and I saw her petal at least 5 rounds before placing her feet down. I yelped and screamed from the window and came running out so proud. There was that look again. She felt proud.
The more I think about it the more I realize that when my kids scream and yell “I can’t do this!” that maybe I should acknowledge their feelings before I offer my help like, “You sound frustrated, keep trying and Momma is here if you need help.”
What tips do you have when it comes to molding and influencing our children to just keep? Don’t give up!