Help your children to help themselves
How much help do they need?
When our children are babies, they need us to do everything for them – they are totally helpless without us. They are unable to look after even their most basic needs. As they grow older, they learn to do more and more things for themselves.
It is our job as parents to help our children, bit by bit, to become confident adults, able to go out into the world and not only be self-sufficient, but to be good, caring citizens, and eventually bring up their own families!
We all need help; we all need each other
We all need help from time to time. Your children may run to you for help at the first opportunity, or they may be the independent type and hate help – it’s as much a question of character as age and ability.
The same thing applies to you – you may be happy to do everything for your children, whether they are capable or not. Perhaps your children really ought to be doing things for themselves instead of watching the TV, catching up with friends on facebook or playing online games? You may be at the opposite end of the spectrum and expect quite young children to be independent and do all manner of things alone.
Whatever our natural character, what is most important is that we have our children’s development foremost in our hearts and minds. We should certainly make it our aim to equip them with everything they need to be successful in the world. We should give them just the right amount of encouragement to take on challenges – first with help, then alone.
So today’s challenge is two-fold – the first part of the challenge is to acknowledge a task or issue that each of your children find genuinely difficult, and find a way to help them with it. It’s important that we help our children with tasks they find overwhelming, and not leave them to struggle alone.
It might be a school subject they struggle with. It might be tying their shoe laces! It might be making friends in a new school, learning to read, being on time for the bus . . . it could be so many things . . . consider for a minute what you know your child is having difficulty with and decide how you can best help them, whatever the issue.
If appropriate, ask them what they struggle with most in life. You might be surprised at the answer. Then, if you feel that they have answered honestly (not pulling a fast one to get out of chores!) ask them how you can best help. Be prepared to leave your comfort zone if necessary, and determine to do what you can to help your children.
Sometimes we need to struggle
The other side of the coin is that if we never struggle, we will never know the satisfaction and the thrill of achieving. It can be tempting to do everything for our children (certainly easier in the short term!) . . . but we risk leaving them with boring lives, becoming underachievers with low self-esteem, believing they are not very good at anything, unable to face the challenges that life will inevitably throw at them.
So we need to teach them life skills, and we need to allow them to make mistakes in different areas of life, because this is the way they will learn. It’s hard to watch our children struggle, but they need to go through the battle in order to come out the other side. If they don’t struggle, they won’t conquer. If they don’t struggle, they will never reach their full potential.
So the second part of today’s challenge is to decide on something that you do for your children that you should stop doing, and teach them/train them to do it, and allow them to keep learning and struggling until they are able to make a good job of it and come out the other side.
Make sure you encourage effort. Keep an eye on how much they can cope with . . . but only step in and take over if you really need to.
A final thought
Don’t forget to pray with and for your children for the things they find difficult, as they grow towards maturity. Encourage them that even in their difficulties the Lord is with them, and you will always be there for them, too. Sometimes the Lord sends trials that seem like more than we can bear, but he is always there, holding our hand, giving us grace that is sufficient for the day. Encourage your children with these things, and be encouraged yourself.
Over to you!
Write a list in your notebook all the things you do for your children. Be prepared for a long list!
Underline any tasks that your children should really be doing for themselves – or that you should be teaching them to do for themselves.
Pick one item from the list, and make the first step to teach/train your children.
Now write down the things you feel your children are having difficulty with.
Ask them if you’re not sure, and decide how you can best help him.
Let us know what you have decided to do and not do. 🙂 Come over to the Christian Parenting Challenge facebook page!
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
For the Future:
Be aware of what your children are capable of, and help them to grow up to be mature adults, able to help themselves and others.