The Enabler

In our last ditch effort to enjoy the few remaining days of summer, we were at the beach recently.  My eldest wanted to go and get water, and I was getting sick of going back and forth to the water for both of my kids to simply pour out the water and request more (in my defense, the water was super far away from our blanket. And I’m old).  So, they had to get the water themselves.  On their way back from the water, the weight was too much.  I had that moment where I thought: ok, I can get up and help or I could wait and see what happens.  And I am glad I waited.  While I watched, they stopped, poured out a little bit of water and tested the weight again.  Then, when the weight was still too much, more water was dumped until it was the perfect amount to carry and still use for sandcastle building.  When they returned up to the sand, I asked what they had done and why.  Unfortunately, being 4 and not developmentally ready to explain their reasons, I didn’t get much out of them.  But I was so impressed with how much they could problem-solve without any assistance from me.

I always watch other parents and see how quickly they jump in to help their children.  Most times, the “wait time” is next to nothing.  Yes, no one wants to hear the screaming of a child who is struggling, super whiny, or just plain being annoying because they are tired, but if we always jump to their aid, how will they gain abilities of problem-solving on their own?  Even with all of the media out there and our “get it now” sort of world where we have to know what’s happening every second (and we can), we don’t want to push these ideas on our children.

Believe me, I’ve read the parenting theories.  I’ve gotten advice from everyone I know to see what they do.  We know that we have to be quick to jump when they are infants, because they need the reassurance that you are there to protect.  But what happens to the kids who don’t have that?  A friend of mine had both of her kids sleeping in their own rooms from the beginning, not in a bassinet in the parent’s room.  Other friends and I speculated how that might affect the children.  Would they be more clingy because they missed that closeness?  Would they have no affect at all?  Over the years we’ve watched her kids and noticed that in many situations where our children (who are the same ages) didn’t need us, her kids instead demanded attention, comfort, whatever she could give.  So is she enabling?

I try to get my kids to be problem-solvers.  I knew from the beginning my eldest was going to “work it” and try to manipulate.  I think I had to leave them in their crib by 6 weeks old because the manipulation started that early (god help me).  Now that my kids are 4 and 2, and I can say things like, “what do you think you should do?” and “problem solve, sweetie, you can figure out what to do”.  They usually respond positively, and although they don’t always get the right answer (the carrying of water on the beach was awesome), they are slowly starting to figure out what to do for themselves.  I don’t leave them to flounder, especially if I know what they are doing is way beyond their means.  But when my youngest is crying hysterically because they want their father during soccer, even though they had been talking about soccer nonstop for days before?  Nope.  I stood my ground.  I knew they were trying to get their way, and I wasn’t giving in.  I may have looked like Mean Mommy on the soccer field, but I knew what would result (a child who is a wimp later in life, perhaps), I wasn’t having it.

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