I recently read a great blog post by a mom in Alameda, CA. This mother, Kate Bassford Baker, complains that strangers keep assisting her children with tasks that she is trying to teach her children to do for themselves; on top of it, they look at her like she’s neglecting her kids.
The example she uses is from the playground.
“Dear Other Parents At The Park: Please do not lift my daughters to the top of the ladder, especially after you’ve just heard me tell them I wasn’t going to do it for them and encourage them to try it themselves.”
Baker goes on to say that she is not sitting on a bench 15 feet away because she is lazy, but rather she is “sitting here because I didn’t bring them to the park so they could learn how to manipulate others into doing the hard work for them. I brought them here so they could learn to do it themselves.” I encourage you to read the entire blog post.
Let’s be clear, here—we’re not talking about abandoning children, putting them in an unsafe environment, or pushing them to do things beyond their developmental abilities. We’re talking about climbing the ladder of a playground slide.
Ultimately, Baker points out that far too many parents are doing too much for their children. Parents seem compelled to “rescue” children from feeling any type of frustration, fear, or discomfort, and that this is preventing children from learning how to push past their limitations to become independent. It starts early–think of how often you tie your child’s shoes for them because it’s “faster” rather than let them practice doing it. Pretty soon we are automatically bailing out our children from messes instead of letting them experience true consequences of their actions. I readily admit to being guilty of this.
“in the name of love, we parents have gutted our kids’ sense of self-reliance and independence. It’s as if we run out in front of our children, removing every obstacle from their path, or else showering them with positive reinforcement if they stumble. Sure, they feel safe and protected and loved — for now — but they never learn how to confront failures in childhood when the stakes are low, so when they become adults, they fold like a house of cards at the first adversity.”
As parents we walk a fine line learning how to balance the immediate wants of our children with the necessity of teaching them to be independent from us. Three famous quotes from Dr. Maria Montessori remind me of this:
- “Little children, from the moment they are weaned, are making their way toward independence.”
- “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
- “These words reveal the child’s inner needs: ‘Help me to do it alone’.”
How do you strive to make your children independent? Do you sometimes feel you do too much for them?