Guest post by Lynn Reilly
Sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to ignore them.
Maybe, but I mean it.
Recently, my six-year-old son stayed home from school sick. Not a lay on the couch all day sick, but a hang out quietly and relax sick.
It gave me an opportunity to catch up on some work and some writing, which for him meant, Mom is distracted and I’m on my own.
My son knows me well enough to tell when I’m distracted
“In a minute,” means another 30-60 minutes from now, so you may want to reconsider your needs.
When he asked me to make him a sandwich and I said “Sure, in a little bit,” he was prompted to get up and make his own.
When he had hit his self-proclaimed TV limit, he got up, turned the TV off and went down to his playroom to find something else to do.
One and a half hours went by with only a small tornado of clean up, which he managed to pick up with very little prompting…and believe me, if you knew him, the boy is a full-blown tornado.
In two hours, he had managed to make and clean up his own lunch, create an ocean for his legos and clean up the tidal wave, bring his trains on a cross-country trip around the house and draw some pretty impressive artwork. All because I was ignoring him.
If I had put everything aside to attend to his every need and desire…
…it would limit his ability to figure it out on his own. His time for independent imaginative play would be sparse.
He would sit and wait for me to decide what we should play and how we should play, and he would most likely expect me to clean it up since I participated in the play portion. That’s the rule, right?
The reality is the more we do for our children, the more they expect that we do for them, and understandably so. When we get used to someone taking care of us, it becomes part of our lifestyle and our expectation of how we live.
The more we do for our children, the more they will depend on us and feel they need us to live comfortably.
Since the goal is for them to not live with us forever, it’s probably a good idea to start letting them take on responsibility for themselves, as it becomes developmentally appropriate.
This could be as simple as giving them the time to tie their own shoelace even when it takes much longer than our patience allows, or as complicated as encouraging them talk to their teacher on their own when they feel they are being treated unfairly.
Another bonus to teaching them skills of independence (or ignoring them) is the fact that doing so increasing their self-esteem.
Think of the last time you taught your child to do something on their own and allowed them to do it consistently. The pride they feel and sense of accomplishment builds up with every task and responsibility they manage on their own.
The more they feel they can do things independently, the more confidence they will acquire, and the more risks they will take to go after what they want.
(Don’t get me wrong, though. I do play with my children, which includes a lot of lessons on how to do things for themselves.)
Even if teaching them is time-consuming, it’s worth it! Like with every job, the hard work pays off when you are cashing in your “free time” and know that the work you put in offers kids a lifetime of confidence and contentment.
Do you know of anyone else who should ignore their kids? Please share this with them.
Lynn Reilly is a mother of 2 young children and a professional school counselor for adolescents. She shares her perspectives regularly on everyday parenting concerns, based on her professional counseling experiences. These are fused with personal parenting experiences using a blend of humor and reality in Perspective Parenting. Her blog is also the featured blog for this month (June).