My Daily Roadtrip

Mommy lessons – letting/encouraging them to try

“Mommy, please help!”

I hear this phrase quite often throughout my days. Elijah is usually asking for help because he can’t take his arms out of his shirt sleeves, can’t put his slippers on, has climbed up on something and wants to get down, and so on and so forth … you get the picture.

“Elijah, I want you to try first and then if you can’t get it, ask for help again.”

That is the phrase my son hears often throughout the day after he asks for help. Most of the time, the ‘easiest,’ or most time-efficient thing anyway, thing for me to do would be to take his arms out of his sleeves, put his slippers on his feet, and lift him off the latest high place he has climbed up to … and to do it immediately. However, most of the time, I decide not to do the aforementioned. I let him struggle a bit with his sleeves and with his slippers, and I encourage him to figure out a way down from the object he is perched upon.

I want my son to learn multiple things from these situations:

1. I want him to learn to not give up so easily, but to try to solve ‘problems’ in different ways if the first way does not work. It can be the easiest, but sometimes laziest thing, for us to try something half-heartedly one time, then ask for help. I want to encourage him to fight against always doing the easiest thing and to work hard at trying to figure things out himself.

2. I want him to learn problem-solving skills. I am hoping that encouraging him to try multiple times will translate into him believing that he has the ability to figure many things out by himself, whether small or big, as he grows older and transitions into different stages of life.

3. I want him to learn about the consequences of his actions. Elijah has loved to climb for several years now and even from the beginning, he will often climb, then call out for help (see below picture from about 1.5 years ago … he is crying because he can’t get down from the diaper box). Shun-Luoi and I often communicate to him and show him that we will be there for him in life, but I don’t want him to think he can do whatever he wants because Mom or Dad will always rescue him (although, of course we would if it was necessary – and sometimes it is). So, if he climbs up onto something, I will often say, “You climbed up there – now you need to figure out a way to get down.” And you know what? He often does find a way down by himself – and then we cheer like crazy! I know the actions-consequences lesson will only continue as he gets older (and for us as adults as well!), so I figure that we may as well begin talking about it, even at this early age.

Now, before you go thinking I allow my boy to flounder with his arms stuck in his shirt sleeves or let him stay stuck on some high object for hours, let me step in and say, no – I absolutely do no such thing! After he may struggle for a bit or try one more time, I will sometimes get him out of his predicament, or more often than not, I will instead talk him through and show him  how to do it himself, in hopes that next time, he will remember what we talked about.

I think we do our children a disservice if we keep them from trying, trying a 2nd time, never letting them fail, or rescue them from every predicament they may find themselves in. Let’s instead encourage, instruct, empower, and cheer them on to trying, trying again, and succeeding at things they did not think they could do.*


* Disclaimers – this post does not mean I subscribe to the “you can do anything you put your mind to” idea. I don’t, but that would be a whole separate blog post. And do I want my child to be completely self-reliant? No, because I believe that’s what can get us into trouble; not believing we need anyone beyond ourselves … we do need others, but more importantly, we need God. But again, that’s another blog post. Don’t read more deeply into this blog post than was meant to be read. I’m done now. 😉


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2 thoughts on “Mommy lessons – letting/encouraging them to try

  1. Michelle on said:

    You are a wise woman Dawn. Reading this made me realize how much I do (and have been doing for the last 9 years) for my kids that they could/should be doing for themselves. And honestly, it is because it tends to be easier if I just do it myself. However, I am seeing in them that they will not do something that they easily could, because they know I will…therefore, I have created laziness in them. Also, recently I have been noticing that it seems as if my daughter doubts her ability to do certain things on her own…example, when she clears her dishes and needs to put them in the dishwasher, she ALWAYS asks me, (even when it is obvious) if the dishes are clean or dirty. Its as if she is afraid to make the wrong decision and too lazy to figure it out on her own. All that to say, I think doing too much for our kids also instills a sense of doubt or insecurity in their own ability to figure things out. So thank you for writing this, it confirmed for me that I need to allow my kids do the things that they can and to sometimes allow them to struggle in order to figure out ways to do things that are difficult. Thanks for writing this. I love you!

  2. There is nothing quite like the sound of crying and fussing when my child is doing something they insist they can not do on their own. And when they look up and see my “see! I told you that you could do it!” smile there is nothing quite like their knowing smile through the tears as they realized the did it on their own!

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