As adults, we have a pretty clear idea of what does and doesn’t work when it comes to solving problems. As our children grow and come to us with more and more complex problems, we begin to feel like the ultimate problem solver. Many times, unbeknownst to us, our ego becomes inflated and we feel like we always know the better answer to any situation with our child.
This attitude can prohibit crucial development when it comes to a child solving their own problems. When they are at school, or on their own with friends they may question their own instincts and have apprehension when it comes to solving a problem on their own.
Our first instincts usually are right. Boiled down to the most basic level we are all animals. We get that feeling in our stomach when we are nervous or afraid, we get an exhilarated feeling when we are excited or complete a goal, and so on.
When we do not allow our children to solve even the simplest problems for themselves, we are teaching them to always look for instruction and external direction outside of themselves when it comes to crucial decision making. A perfect example would be when my daughter spilled her milk at the kitchen table. First instead of reacting to the situation she looked at her parents to react to her simple mistake. After she processed the fact that there was no punishment for spilling milk, she blankly looked at me waiting for instruction. Instead of mopping up the milk, or telling her to get a rag, I asked her to solve the problem. The milk sat on the ground for a little longer than I would have liked, but she took the time to think of what would be the best way for her to clean up her mistake. She looked in our pantry and stumbled between paper towels or a dishrag, before deciding on grabbing the mop. This simple exchange subconsciously can help her build confidence in her own decision-making. Good job kiddo, clean up that milk!
This is a wonderful process to start early. If she doesn’t train her brain to react in small situations of panic, I cannot expect her to have confidence when it comes to bigger situations when she is older. Learning to follow her instincts and react swiftly with confidence is something very beneficial to children. One day it is spilled milk and the next day it can be some serious peer pressure.
Similar scenarios could be figuring out her homework instead of giving into parental frustration and telling her to skip it. Allowing her to clean up her own mess instead of reacting in an angry manner and begrudgingly cleaning it myself.
I often wonder why children make stupid decisions, especially ones that can negatively impact their life. If they are not taught from an early age to follow their instincts when it comes to a problem, they might not know to trust them when the problem is more serious.
Many times I try and place myself behind the eyes of a child and think of things that would have helped me at that age. Confidence is a huge thing with children, and as they are told more and more what to do, how to do it, and how to behave they truly start to second-guess their own instincts, feelings and reactions. It is up to us as parents to really help reinforce their own decision-making, even if it means leaving a puddle of milk on the floor. Sometimes we have to put ourselves in their shoes, get down on the ground and play, and remember what it was like to be a child.
The best way we can impart our wisdom is not dictating their every move, but gently guiding them in the right direction and helping to build their confidence in the person that they are so they can make smarter decisions as they grow.