When She’s Asleep

We party!  No, really!!!  When she’s asleep, her Papa and I pull out all the stops and celebrate!  It usually looks a little like this,

Seriously fun!

There are many, many pictures circulating around the internet advertising, nay, taunting those of us who have not and will not likely ever capture one of these precious moments, until our kids are nearer 16.

 

Yeah right.  Not my kid.  Nope.

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So, I find it funny when people tell me they are going to miss nap number 3, then eventually nap #2 goes by the wayside… ah.

Nap #1 was a thing of beauty and wonder in our house, and it lasted a mere 3 years.

Thing is, she’s never missed a moment, and when you talk to her, you know it.  And while I think her father and I would love a few more moments to share together with just the two of us, we know that this is temporary, that she is growing exponentially, that she will sleep when she’s a teenager, and that it’s worth every moment of sharing with her, even if it means the only time it’s quiet around here is when we’re all asleep.

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I was reading some comments on a site tonight about parents and their sleep dilemmas with their children.  It was the usual.. my kid either won’t nap anymore or some other ‘not as the parent expects/wants’ scenario.

I get it.  I tried for a couple weeks to hold on to my daughter’s afternoon nap when she had everything else to do but sleep on schedule.  I’ve been there.  I battled.  I begged.  I even went so far as to be told where I could put my idea of HER being asleep while I wasn’t.  Imagine all she would miss!  Yeah.. imagine.  Nothing like watching mom plop down on a couch and stare off into space for an hour, or do the laundry and dishes.  I know, crazy exciting stuff!

Anyway, point is, I realized too late in my case, as it took my daughter asserting herself in a way that made it very clear that I was being a jerk and selfish, to get me to open my eyes and stop trying to tell her when she was to sleep, instead of granting her the same consideration I grant myself and my partner regarding our sleep needs and preferences.

I learned the value of allowing someone space to manage their own body and mind very early with my daughter.  It’s a lesson I will carry with me for the remainder of my life – it’s given me the gift of acceptance and respect on a level for others I didn’t have previously.

And here are a few little things I also learned along the way –

Some children do not want to sleep, in spite of you thinking they need to. This might seem odd, but what if you had another person telling you when to sleep? 

Coming from a mama with a little that has been more alert, aware, and absorbing from the moment of birth than any of us could imagine… Instead of “putting her down for a nap”, what about trying something a little different? Why not try watching her signals and instead of telling her what to do with them, give her credit and allow her to follow her natural rhythm

When you see her start to wear out, slow down yourself. 

When you see her becoming overwhelmed with stimulation, calm your environment and quiet your mind. Provide a conducive atmosphere for rest, and allow you and she to define what is restful to each of you, independently.

Our society has this idea that children can’t figure out how to sleep on their own… Our society would serve itself well to stop trying to force children and their patterns into those that fit an adult’s world and adult’s expectations and patterns.

She will sleep when her body tells her to, if you don’t try to manage and modify her natural patterns. And you will find that if you don’t interfere, but instead follow her lead, you also will have much more opportunity to rest and restore while she rests, instead of the battle that you will both remember.

If you are interested in the studies and thoughts related to the damage caused by those who insist their children sleep when they (the adults) deem appropriate, you can check out the following links:

Becoming as Wise as Your Baby
The Dangers of CIO
Anti CIO Community
Becoming Babywise
The Natural Child Project: Sleep
Neglect & Sleep Training, Ignoring
Refusing to Diminish, Choosing to Respond

Trusting the Process

Being worthy of their trust, by first demonstrating our trust in them

 
A while back, I saw the following comment on a page from which I often take a few moments to share, learn, and find my inspiration.  The site is Natural Motherhood, and the FB page has continuously active conversation.One day, I came across the following request for encouragement, and it stayed with me for a while.  So often, I wish I could reach out and wrap my arms around these brave women and men, choosing to parent against the collective, and instead forging ahead in the way they know is most beneficial for their children, their family, and our world.    I wish I could step into their space, smile gently face to face, and share the quiet knowing that flourishes inside us.
Here is the thought; I hope you will journey through this with me.
“Hi, I need some advice please. My little ones are almost 3 and 15mos. We practice gentle, compassionate parenting. Lately I have been getting the, I told you so” from family members. I am having a hard time and am at a loss. My kids are both wild, rambunctious, whiney and just don’t hear me when I talk to them. We can’t take them places because of how they behave. My littler one screams and throws tantrums almost all day long…if I don’t give her exactly what she wants when she wants she loses it completely. I am just exasperated and exhausted. I’m not sure what to do and I feel like I’m failing miserably as a parent. My grandma says my parenting style has “created little brats.” It breaks my heart.”
Reading requests for help like these, my first response is to shake my head side to side, like an eraser is used.  I actually visualize an eraser sometimes, like the Mister Eraser on the show, “The Color Crew”.  Aeehghhh… I want to say.. “Neh, stop, back up, start over, scratch all that.”  I want to say, “Go to the beginning.  Start there, find your gentleness and find their eyes, then take a step forward in the process.  The forest, the trees, the entire system, we have to have water, sunlight, and roots.”  Find some dirt, and start drawing whatever comes to mind, maybe you’ll be blessed and your children will join you.

When we can see the world through our children’s eyes, from the perspective their minds can comprehend, our own eyes are opened and our understanding, compassion, wisdom, and most importantly, our grace expands exponentially. Gentle grace with ourselves and one another allows us to patiently trust the process of life as it unfolds and develops.

When we are struggling, it is most often a result of discomfort, strain, or our own emotional needs being unmet to some degree. Our children are mirrors. Step one, identify expectations and determine whether they are there out of mutual benefit and meeting of needs, or an underlying fear/concern/need for control.

The judgement of others comes, and when we let it in, it impacts us and we end up questioning ourselves. Instead, we can choose to empower ourselves by choosing to bring our mind to a place where we can see the world through our children’s viewing portal.  Instead of expectations imposed by the adult world, we see the value of being a child. Bringing yourself to their physical height, while making this choice to see through their eyes, has a profound effect, btw.

Children hear so much more than we sometimes realize, both in the words we do say and those we do not.  They “hear” us at a core and integrated level that we, as adults, have often forgotten.  Compliance and Listening are two very different concepts.

How often, as an adult, do we appreciate our day being managed extensively?  How apt are we to happily comply with constant overseeing, herding, redirection, correction, scolding, disapproval, annoyance, irritation, expectation, and the reproach of someone who sees themselves as “over” us, for whatever reason.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not much in the market for being told when to use the bathroom, what I will eat, when to get myself dressed and what to wear, how to speak, when to speak, what I should respond to because someone else thinks so, how to spend my free time, and finally, precisely when and how I am to cause myself to sleep.  It’s a cacophony of being controlled and not being good enough.

Step back.  Step out if you have to.  Change your expectations, discover what is worth appreciating and being downright in awe of, and watch how your approach and reactions follow the shift.

If your children are whining, they are not being heard by you.  Their needs are not being met in ways that they need most, or they cannot trust that you will respond reliably.  This is the purpose of whining, to be acknowledged and have our needs be addressed.

If your children are wild and rambunctious, relish their energy.  Find a way to catch their excitement and their enthusiasm, and enjoy some for yourself. The more you move, the more energy you will have. The more you laugh and squeal, the more laughter and joy your life will know.  The more you look, the more you will see.  The more you listen, the more you will take in, the greater your perspective and understanding will be.

Screams, tantrums, outbursts that are not positive, these are desperate attempts at being heard and understood.  Adults do the same, but some with a bit more refinement and calculation for effect, children act on impulse.  I love their purity of spirit.  They do what they know, what they have been shown, and whatever they have discovered is effective.  If you want your child to stop having such outbursts, then hear them and respond in a loving and fair manner BEFORE they have to resort to such efforts.

It’s a tough job, and it requires something that all of us can give, but some of us have to find and develop first.  But when we realize the difference parenting in a way that guides but doesn’t diminish, encourages curiosity without expectation of performance, and truly reveres the process and challenge that is Childhood, we end up with harmony and flow.

I will begin to write with specific example/scenario for the purpose of comparison, and to bring to real life all the concepts here.

Also something to remember… Our Little Persons are just that… they are not supposed to be small adults. The mind develops on its own schedule, and when we, with grace and wisdom, nurture those minds with acceptance, and trust the process of growing and developing, we are able to step beyond the realm of negativity, fear, expectation, and judgment…

When we choose to revere their childhood, and admire their accomplishment of meeting the challenge of growing and developing, then the natural result is our respect and admiration of them and their autonomy, and we can then truly love them, unconditionally.

 

 

He Said, She Said | A Culture of Blame, Courage to Listen, Clarity to Act

Taking this in today…

I want to write about this subject, as I suspect it is a dynamic we all can comprehend, whether we’re parents or not, but I need to ask you think about something first… What if humans created an environment where, instead of advocating for ourselves, we advocated for one another equally to ourselves?  What if we, as humans, evolved beyond survival of the fittest/strongest/most dominating?  What if we became protectors and providers for the benefit of the souls around us, and in doing so nourished our own soul?

 

When Your 4 Year Old Happily Cleans Her Room

At 10pm, no less…

Yes, you heard me right.  Last night, my little one came to me with all the sincerity and gentleness she could muster (I’ve been sick, she knew I was exhausted), and asked if I would be willing to get her “princesses” (Polly Pocket collection) out for her.  She wanted to play with them with her Papa before she went to sleep.

I collected this, um, collection about two months ago and put them up because there are so many pieces that she was having an impossible time managing them. Everything was consistently strewn, which just caused her and me frustration.  (Not to mention the pairs of shoes that were no longer pairs.)

I think Polly Pockets are intended for kids about 6 and up.  My Bugz inherited these about a year ago and she seemed to dig them, even if they drove her nuts not being able to dress the dolls and such without assistance.  But eventually, it just got overwhelming, so I put them away for a while.

Last night, she presented this request, and instead of heaving a big sigh (which, I try not to do because well, it doesn’t feel good to have someone sigh or roll their eyes in exasperation at me… so why do it to my little person), I smiled.  I looked at her for a moment, to determine if she was serious or just grasping for something to stall the sleep sequence (she’s recently become reluctant to go to sleep – something I’ll address in another post).

She was serious.  She’d already spoken to her Papa to get his agreement to play the activity with her, and she a scenario going in her head for the princesses to play out. Though I knew she was tired, I saw a chance to honor her choice to genuinely request (instead of whine), and respect and grant her desires. Even though I thought there might be better uses of time, it didn’t matter, she is her own person and this is what she felt  was valuable at that moment… I had the pleasure of saying “yes”. 

There was one caveat, however.  Her room was rather untidy (like, the floor had gone missing) and I knew that if we tried to add anything to it, it would just frustrate and ruin the experience.  I have been meaning to get to her room for a week or two now, but with all the traveling and randomness of our present life, and my excellent ability to selectively procrastinate, I hadn’t worked with her on it.  So, what a great opportunity (I hoped) to give her exactly her little heart’s desire, AND get her room cleaned… at 10pm, while hacking up a lung.  – This is when I laugh, the kind of laugh that warms the entire room.

I told her, and I quote, “I would be happy to get your princesses out for you, however I think your room has to be clean first, or you won’t be able to find a place to play with them.  Would you be willing to work with me (note: “work with me”, not, “help me”) to pick things up to make room for the princesses?”

“Sure.”

And she did.  She found it tough at the beginning, not knowing what to do and quickly becoming overwhelmed. (How many times have you told your older kids to clean their room, a power struggle ensues, and nothing gets cleaned?  There is likely a really good reason…)  Rather than run her out, tell her to just keep trying (which is defeating in a situation like this), or enter a battle, I have found it very successful to simply give her a task.  In our case, I asked her to start by rounding up all the shoes and putting them in her closet.  Later, I asked her to organize them in the closet by shoving them to one side, but initially just getting them in there was a step she could manage with confidence and success.

As I worked on the various miscellaneous stuff that would overwhelm any kid, I continued to make little piles and ask her to do certain actions with each.  She continued to help, then yawned a bit and sat down.  I asked her if she was tired.  Yes.  Did she still want to play princesses tonight?  Yes.

Now, here is where some parents would respond with, “Well then, you have to keep cleaning.”  In our home, bribery and coercion are tactics that are avoided as much as possible.  So, instead of saying something like this, I simply acknowledged her fatigue, and I continued cleaning and organizing while she relaxed.  No expectation of her, no shame imposed on her need for rest, and no resentment coming from me.

Within a few moments, she happily resumed working with me; she saw something that sparked her interest, that she knew she could succeed at, and she jumped right in.  Within 10 minutes we had completed the task together, one that would have taken her hours alone, one that she would not have succeeded at because of her current neurological development.  And one that, had I insisted she do alone (after all, she did make the mess alone), would have diminished her and left her feeling a failure (sometimes parents force the issue believing they are teaching responsibility… that’s not the lesson that is received however, and the child does not come out the other side with more self esteem or confidence).

Her room was spectacular!  She was beaming with pride, accomplishment, and self satisfaction.  She was also exhibiting gratitude, as was I.

Papa came, princesses were unearthed, and I went to relax with my lungs.

I don’t know when they finally drifted off to sleep, but I don’t care either; thankfully our schedule allows for this. More importantly, I trust that she will now forever have the memory of being safe enough to ask Mama for something that really mattered to her, being valued enough by Mama to be granted her request, being capable enough to work with Mama to complete an important task, being cherished enough by Papa to be played with (even when we’re all tired), and being unconditionally loved so much, that her sleep could come gently.  

That Doesn’t Smell Good. Yes it does.

I invalidated my kiddo today.  I didn’t mean to.  And I tried to remedy and repair, as I managed to catch myself, three times (in one day, yes.. I know).
Nonetheless, I did precisely what I try to encourage others not to do.

The incidents were simple, each time my daughter voiced her opinion that something annoyed her (didn’t smell good, didn’t look good, she didn’t like it), and each time I countered that it was fine (did smell good, did look good, no reason to not like it).  Stupid.  Stupid.

The rub is the reason I responded as I did, because normally, I would simply acknowledge her opinion, acknowledge her for voicing it, ask questions perhaps, and let her have her thoughts and feelings (just like I want to be allowed my thoughts and feelings, and the validation of them and me).  But today, for whatever reason, each time she expressed a negative opinion (stated above), it happened to be in public, and in the presence of adults within hearing (and being offended) distance.

Today I decided, in a rather knee-jerk fashion, to allow my need for social acceptance from other adults to supersede my respect and value of my daughter. To me, this is unacceptable.

Each time I countered, I caught myself and was able to restate with something along the lines of, “You don’t think this smells good?  Well, I actually think it smells good, but you don’t. Ok.”  Mind you, this only after my immediate response of, “It does smell good”.

I might as well have told her, “Don’t say it doesn’t smell good, and it’s not ok for you think that.  Stop saying things that others will look at me funny out of assumed insult, where I might end up being embarrassed.”

Pathetic. I know.

What’s worse is… I know. I know better. I know how important it is to validate her, even if I disagree. I know how crucial it is to care more about her than what others might think (especially the general public).  SERIOUSLY.  I am not typically even remotely affected by what others think, why it got to me today, I don’t know. And it did get to me – at the expense of my little one – the one I’m to protect and uphold.

Lesson: Take my own advice and pay more attention.

Thankfully, my daughter allowed me to restate and try to repair each time (but really, I “caught” my error after the first time, why oh why did I repeat it twice more!!).  Yet, I know it is there now, and I can’t take it back… I can only improve.

How many times a day do we, as adults, invalidate our little ones without even realizing it? I would encourage you today to intentionally become aware and if you catch yourself (or hear others) simply countering your little ones, think before you open your mouth next time.  Remember, they are their own person. We have the responsibility to acknowledge their feelings and opinions as valid and worthy of existing – even if we don’t agree with them.

I wonder how many parents of teens would see a complete 180 in their relationships if they decided to zero in on this aspect of interaction with their teens, and make changes in their behaviors toward their teens.

Driving the Point Home

Yesterday we took our daughter to an egg, er, scramble.  The group that put it together was thoughtful and split up the field into three age categories.  She ran with the 1-4 year olds, their parents..and older siblings.  She came out ok, but next year I suspect she will be a bit more aggressive…. oh, what we teach our children from the very beginning.

After the hunt, we went over to the playground for a while.  There is a feature on this playground built for wheelchair fun; there is a long incline ramp, a bridge, and then a very gentle slide.  Needless to say, the kids on two feet and wheels really seem to dig it, including my daughter.  She spent quite a few moments on this particular piece of equipment, until one time instead of going down the slide, she decided to go up.  She did so at the peril of another girl about her age.

The mother of the other child, my daughter, and my daughter’s father were all within arm’s reach, so the girls didn’t end up with any serious injury physically, but the interplay between my kiddo and her Papa that followed is something I want to talk about.

My daughter has a very solid sense of self, she is articulate and opinionated and we encourage this. She tends to see things for what they are, doesn’t follow the crowd too much, and generally just sort of blissfully fits wherever/whatever she’s doing.  She spends most of her days with me, but often Papa is around, and when he is, she is happiest.  Her desire for his attention, approval, interest in her, and general involvement with her seems to exceed her desire for the same from me.  Consequently, she is much more sensitive to his responses toward her.

She listens to his ideas, to his guidance and suggestion, and to his heart, and most of the time, she does so silently. You can see the acknowledgment on her face, if you’re looking for it, and sometimes in her body language and movements, but her acknowledgement of his communications is almost never verbalized (at least not until later).

Russ tends to be very gentle with her, he gets down physically so he is face to face, he plays, he teaches, he leads by example, he shares himself.  Sometimes, however, he reprimands, and it flattens her. He can be too firm, too rough… this is when the impatience sets in. (Can any of you relate?? I know I can.)  But he can also be direct and loving, yet if he reprimands even in this calm and connected state, she just crumbles. And crumbling can look like falling apart emotionally, but it can also look like defensiveness and anger.

The range of emotional response from her toward him is greater and more intense than it is with me.  There are reasons for this, unique to the personalities of all three of us, which I won’t go into in this post, but understanding this is important to understanding why I notice some of their interactions more than others, and why I’m writing about the one yesterday.

After my daughter decided to assume the position to climb UP the slide, and once her Papa realized that it was going to cause a collision, I think he attempted to verbally intervene. I don’t think she responded however, which agitated all involved, and the girls collided. The mom of the girl helped her daughter, who was upset because of the physical “bump” she’d received, and Russ took our daughter aside.  He knelt down, holding her (or trying to), and I assume began to tell her something along the lines of why he thought it was not a good idea for her to climb up a slide with other children concurrently sliding down the same slide.

I watched from a distance, and saw only the body language between the two… He was irritated but seemed to be providing her “Papa kindness” (which means he was not shouting or diminishing her in some way).  He was talking to her face to face, at her height, but she was pulling away from him and wouldn’t look at him.  He persisted, physically trying to get her to stay near enough to him that they could talk by taking her hand, holding her arm and waist, and attempting to have the conversation. She pushed him off, was defensive, and eventually decided she was done and ran off to play on the opposite part of the playground from him.

This is when I walked over to him and asked what had happened.

I got the run down, followed by a papa expressing his dismay that his daughter just won’t listen to him.

I thought about what I’d seen for a moment and concluded that my husband and my daughter need to spend a lot more time together.  He is intuitive and sensitive, and given the necessary amount of opportunity to discover and experience one another (Papa and daughter), together, he would have been able to see exactly what I was seeing. He would have become aware, would have realized his daughter’s plight and need, would have seen the development that had actually occurred (that was masked and hiding from him in that moment), and he would have been able to diffuse the situation immediately in a way that left both Papa and kiddo with positive feelings about self and environment.

He didn’t see however, not this time. He didn’t realize it in the moment, but our daughter was embarrassed. She was embarrassed by him not realizing that she got the lesson in the very first sentence, the first three-five words, or perhaps even in the physical action of either him helping to prevent a major collision (if he did, I didn’t see), or in the collision itself. I don’t think she’s ever climbed up a slide with a kid coming down before… 

I know the signs of not ‘seeing’ soon enough. I have experienced it plenty of times myself when I don’t see – until later – and then I have to repair. Humility is something I seem to be gaining more and more of, as she gets older… And while I suppose this is a good thing, it doesn’t exactly feel so great.

What her Papa and I don’t sometimes realize is just exactly how little can be so much.. He felt he needed to reiterate to her the lesson he knew she needed to get from the experience, not realizing all the while, she had already gotten it.

When he insisted she give him her attention so he could explain and teach (what amounted to her as reprimand), she rejected him. She fought back to hold on to her dignity and he held on because of his reasons.  I suspect those reasons consisted (at least in part) of him genuinely wanting to encourage her social development, increase her knowledge base for the purpose of future self-safety (just a week ago, she was the kid coming down when another was coming up, and she got hurt), as well as perhaps a sense within him of needing to do something because of the other adults around. (I don’t know what his motivations were, I didn’t ask specifically.) The result of the two, each struggling to be heard, to hold on to their own sense of self and need, was a battle that divided them.

They reconnected an hour or so later, but the rift was there and one of them will consciously remember it (the adult), while the other will subconsciously file it away. It will shape future interactions and perceptions, for both of them.

Wisdom comes from screwing things up, and realizing it.  

What if we, as parents, had the wisdom, awareness, and made the choice to step back from the interplay, while remaining engaged, for the purpose of gaining highly valuable perspective?  Doing so would allow our maturity to prevail, our intuition to be heard, and our awareness could do its job. Imagine what might happen in moments of struggle, where we think we are connected and moving toward each other, when in reality each is standing his/her ground defensively for their own reasons and the distance is actually mounting every second that goes by, if we as the parent/adult stepped back far enough to see. 

~  What would we see?

We might see our inner selves shouting, “Hear me! Hear me! I need to be acknowledged and know my thoughts, my feelings, and my perspective is important and valued. I am significant.”

We might see our children silently shouting, “Hear me! Hear me! I need to be acknowledged and know my thoughts, my feelings, and my perspective is important and valued. I am significant.”


Our children are not emotionally mature. Many of us parents aren’t either. It’s our responsibility to give our children an environment safe for them to be emotionally immature, so they can develop at their own pace.  We can give them this environment because of our own maturity. When we, the adults, are aware of ourselves in such a way that we recognize what is motivating behaviors, what is lying underneath our responses and thought patterns, our perspectives change, as do our reactions. When we, the adults, have accepted ourselves fully, and confidently value ourselves, we have nothing to prove… especially to our children (or the other adults standing by, watching).  We also have nothing to have approved, because we know within us that we are ok. We know that we are beneficial and needed.  We don’t seek out that assurance, it is within us.

Our children seek that assurance until their emotional foundation is solid and developed to the point where they have the ability to provide themselves with this assurance, and regenerate it when it is temporarily not able to be found. How many adults do you know who are still functioning somewhere within this same realm of underdeveloped emotional security?

Power struggles with children are completely unnecessary.  And when they do occur, it is the responsibility of the adult to cause them to cease, and not by winning either. Let’s use this metaphor: Adult and child, each has a water gun and they’re playing a game with each other. The game is going well, until their guns run out of water.  They both need more water, there is only one hose, both need the water before the other one in order to “win”.  Where some adults/parents will demand the water first, others will give the water to their kid first, but then double up efforts in drenching (or let the kid win, which does the same for that child’s sense of self that doubled up drenching efforts does).

What if the adult had the wisdom and awareness to cause the hose to “run out” of water?  The game would have served its purpose, it would have been fun, and the battle that might have ensued, where each (adult and child) have a need to get met for themselves, would simply not have existed. The concluding moments would have been a “truce”, where each side respected the efforts of the other, and they had fun.

Perhaps you think this story is simplistic and unrealistic, maybe even childish… But I challenge you to reflect with an open mind on either the last, or the next time you and your child engage in being heard, and getting your own needs met.. You might just discover a SuperSoaker in your hands.


I’d love to have you share some of your own experiences where you were able to “see” what else was going on inside a battle or power struggle between you and your kid.

Here, I Can Do It… You’re Taking Too Long

The other day, we were at a friend’s house and Bugz was playing with the family’s set of Legos. They have a child who has a fetish (they have thousands of Legos), and a truly rare talent. I don’t know how this kid builds the stuff that is produced, but it’s awe inspiring.

Bugz has never shown much interest in blocks, Legos, or other like toys, yet she routinely builds and invents, engineers devices that serve some purpose which is almost either always self evident, or obvious with only a slight explanation.  Legos?  Well, not so much.  At least she doesn’t play them with me.  She will sit for an hour with her Papa and play with them, but not otherwise.  Maybe it’s me…

That said, this day, she’d wandered into the play room where all this family’s Legos are kept, and she actually started to play with them.  She wasn’t exactly building anything, but she had rounded up all the human-like figures and had slipped into the realm of Legoland.

After she’d been occupied for about 20 minutes with the Legos, it became time for she and I to return to our own home.  I began the alerting sequence (more on this in another post), and in the process, the mother of the family noticed Bugz was struggling with attaching a set of crutches (or some like assistance device) to one of the little Lego people.  I noticed too.  I stood silently and watched her struggle. Bugz looked up at me and explained that she was having a hard time figuring out how to get them to stay where she assumed they should.  I acknowledged her plight.  I replied that I assumed I would find it also a challenge.

Nothing more..
She continued in her attempt and I continued in my silent support.

A moment later, the mother of the family whose home we were in, knelt down and took from my daughter the toy she was struggling with.  This woman did so stating, “Here, let me help you.  I can do it”.

I watched my daughter deflate at first, become confused, then annoyed.

A moment later, “Here, Bugz, I think it’s done.  You just have to know how to do it.”, so says this adult, while attempting to shove the toy back into my now disinterested daughter’s hands.

“I don’t want to play with it anymore.” Bugz then got up to leave, but hesitated when the mother in question spat out an sarcastic, “Well, uh, I, humph… ooohhhkkaayyy.”

About this time, I stepped in, ignoring the adult, and knelt next to my standing daughter.  I told her that I thought it was pretty cool she’d assembled the Lego people she had, and that she had been working with them.  She reiterated she didn’t want to play anymore, and I simply acknowledged her, knowing the lack of benefit if I’d gone any further at that moment (with the other mom right there).

All of this happened in the span of less than 90 seconds.

We departed, Bugz was mad.  She wasn’t stating why.

When we got home, I sat down with her, face to face, to have a conversation about her feelings. She was mad.  Mad.  I asked her to help me understand why.  She couldn’t.  She was just mad.

I knew why… so I led her a bit.

“Bugz, was it frustrating to not be able to get those crutches thingies on the little Lego guy?”

“No!”

“It would have frustrated me… but then again, you are much more skilled at Legos than I am.”

“Yep.”

“So, would you have liked me to have helped somehow?”

“No. It was hard though. They didn’t fit right.”

“You’re right… I think the crutches might have been meant for a special Lego person, different than the one you had chosen.”

“Oooohhh…. Yeah, there was one with a cast on its leg. Maybe that would have been the match.”

Pause… (She spent a moment thinking to herself.)

“Why didn’t you want to play anymore with the Legos after (name of other mom) decided to show you how to force the crutches to stay on the Lego person you were working on?”

“I dunno..”

“Did you like that she decided to take care of making them work instead of letting you figure it out?”

“I couldn’t get them to stay on the blue one. I would have tried the guy with the cast on his leg. She made them stay on but it wasn’t right… That’s why I couldn’t get them to… Why did she take it from me?”

“She didn’t trust that you would be able to do what you wanted to. She didn’t trust your ability to play and solve what you wanted to. She thought you needed her help. Did you?”

“No. I didn’t want her to do it for me. I didn’t know why it was stuck and not working…”

“Would you have wanted me to help?”

“No. I could do it. I don’t like that she came in… and I don’t want to play with those Legos ever again!”

“I understand. I don’t think I would have wanted her to take the toy and do it for me either. I think I would have eventually figured it out, or done something to fix it, or just decided to do something else.”

“Yeah.”

“I think your skill with building and tinkering is really cool, so does your Papa.”

“Yeah, I built him a Navigator Rabbit. He has it in his truck… If you stick it in the cup holder, and move the arms here (shows me) and there (shows me) and then  – – -, and it will tell him, ‘Turn right there’, and – – – it will help him know how to get back home to me..”

– Conversation concluded. –

Lesson: Don’t undermine the confidence and self esteem in your child by stepping in, unless you’re asked (or there is a question of safety, perhaps, and then still, do whatever you do with the utmost respect for their ability).  All you’re proving is that you, the adult, don’t think they’re good enough.  Why would you do this? Seriously.  Does the adult have something to prove (besides demonstrating their impatience, perhaps)?

It’s deflating, it’s undermining, it’s destructive to the spirit of the little person.  Instead, given the opportunity to determine what their OWN solution will be, that little person will develop another strong and solid link in their chain of self confidence and assurance.

Why crush a child’s spirit? Why interfere? It causes them to resent that “assistance” and the person who didn’t trust them to succeed.

This is a common response from parents and older siblings, and it’s so damaging (and so easily avoided). Jump ahead a few years and watch what happens when that same parent  behaves this way toward his/her teenage (or worse, pre-teen) child. And we wonder why so many parents have so many struggles with their teens.  Honestly, it’s not complicated.  Stop smashing your little ones, uphold them and honor them for all they are and all they do, respect their autonomy and value, and acknowledge fully all they accomplish and learn – fully admire their development right where it is, right then, right now.

And DON’T STOP when they become old enough to oppose you. Whether that happens at two years, ten years, or 16.  Value that confidence and ability in them, know that your faith in them helped put it there. You don’t want a kid that agrees and follows, complies with everything, and doesn’t think for themselves.  You don’t.  It’s not easier. It’s not better. And if you think this is what would make your life easier, if your teen or pre-teen would just “pay attention and do (whatever it is you want/don’t want them to)”, you’re wrong, and YOU are the problem – fix it by starting with yourself and learning what you did to create the environment and dynamics now unwanted.

~~~

Would you take a few minutes today and make a list of whatever comes to mind that your child(ren) possess a unique or individual skill/ability for. Something exception, something simple. Then, make a list of some things they’re struggling with.  After each line of struggles, explain directly WHY you have faith in them to solve their own struggle to their own satisfaction (not your way).

Now, give them the list (or speak it to a younger child over the next day/two).  Say nothing more. Expect nothing. Just observe and keep your responses to a limited smile and nod, eye to eye, if the child responds at all.

Wait (an hour, a day, a week… maybe months).
– You’ll see.

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Would you take a moment right now and create your list? Would you share it here?

What about an experience you’ve had where you’ve observed the response of a child who has been the recipient of an adult who has ‘stepped in’ where the child would have otherwise succeeded/or not (to their own satisfaction) on their own. Put yourself in the position of that child… What feelings does it evoke within you? Can you imagine now how you – being that child – might feel if, after speaking your opposition to the diminishment, was then also told that opposition was wrong/ungrateful/rude/inconsiderate/disrespectful (or any other slew of condemnations adults might throw)? Do you see what we do to our children when we tell them we don’t have faith in them? Do you? So… just don’t.