Why letting kids struggle is just as important as helping them

Posted in Preschool.

As protective mama bears it’s only natural to want to help our kids as much as possible, but as a recent Facebook post by Lauren Lodder from Mommy Owl reminds us, if we really want to help our children we need to let them struggle. 

Swooping in

I have three kids and most days it’s a battle to just get them out the door. I’m always stopping to help someone with something and I know I should make them do it, but usually the clock’s ticking or I don’t want to deal with the aftermath of their own attempts at doing the task, like the big mess they left trying to feed the cat.

So when I read this post on Facebook from Lauren Lodder on why she makes her five-year-old daughter do most tasks herself, it was a big wake-up call. I need to stop leaping in and go back to letting my kids struggle.  

“I let her struggle”

Lauren’s post gives us a snapshot of everyday events with her five-year-old daughter who she explains over the course of one day struggles to pour her own cereal, tie her shoes, push her bike to school when she’s tired of riding, do tricky homework and even fall asleep in the evening.

And while it may seem strange to some, there’s a good reason for this mum’s lack of help.

“I let her struggle because, before I know it, she will be 6 and then 10 and then 20 and she will leave this loving home of ours and be on her own, an independent woman in the real world,” says Lauren.

“If I jumped in there every time my daughter struggled, I would be doing her a disservice because she needs to learn that she is fully capable of completing tasks on her own, that she doesn’t need me to step in and save her.”

7AM: My 5-year-old made her own breakfast this morning. By the time she was finished pouring her cereal, a mountain of…

Posted by Mommy Owl by Lauren Lodder on Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sending the wrong message

The insightful mum admits that yes, it would have been easier (and less frustrating) in the moment for both of them if she had stepped in and helped, however, in doing so her daughter would have missed out on the confidence that comes from mastering something by herself.

“I would be, unintentionally, sending her the message that she was incapable of doing these things on her own,” says Lauren, who is quick to also point out that her daughter is absolutely capable.

“I will always be there to show my children the way, help them — if and when they need it — but what I will not do is subvert their efforts and learning by either doing their work for them or letting them give up,” she adds.

We want our butterflies to soar

Lauren’s words spoke volumes to me because of course I know they’re so true, yet in the daily hustle and bustle of life I had forgotten this important parenting approach.

It’s like a butterfly trying to emerge from its cocoon — if you help it break free, it’s wings don’t form properly and it loses it’s ability to thrive sufficiently. 

We want our little caterpillars to turn into beautiful butterflies and fly out independently into the world, and so the only way for that to happen is to ignore our instinct to help and let them push through the struggle instead so they can soar.

Practice makes perfect

Similar to how it’s good to not always entertain our children and let them frequently get bored, I think we all need to follow in Lauren’s footsteps by backing off when it comes to assisting our kids with tasks that are achievable for them to do without us.

While it’s new territory to these little people and they’re guaranteed to make mistakes (and lots of mess!), in the long-run it will help them become more confident, capable and independent children and adults.

Learning through failure

As Lauren reminds us with her final words: “Our children won’t be living with us forever; we won’t always be there to fix their problems, help them avoid mistakes or tie their shoes and, even if we could, we shouldn’t.”

Couldn’t agree more!


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