Life is tough.
Many days, I wish that someone would come and take away some of my challenges, but it never seems to happen.
So why then, do we so often remove challenges from children’s lives?
As a teacher, I was often in team situations where other teachers would remove challenges from their classroom, In fact, it was sometimes the theme of a professional development workshop.
They would say things like:
“In order to have less conflict in your classroom, be sure to have multiple copies of one toy.”
Now I’m not saying that we should limit the number of toys in classroom (because I think that there should be enough toys so that every child has one) but I don’t think that there should be more than one of a certain toy just because it might cause conflict.
In fact, I think that teachers should deliberately have just one special toy in their classroom in order to create a challenge and teach children how to manage it!
I remember sharing a gym time with one teacher who would always remove all the obstacles from the bike track and it drove me crazy every day. I wanted signs and obstacles in the way so that they had to learn how to get around them. When I asked her why she always wanted the track free of debris, she said that she didn’t want the kids to get into a traffic jam. When I asked her ‘why not?’, she didn’t have an answer.
One day I asked her to watch the kids if we didn’t move things out of the way for them and see what would happen. These children (3-5 years old) with many different abilities and languages communicated more, interacted more, worked together and problem solved when before they would just go around in circles for 45 minutes.
Here’s the thing-
They will struggle.
They will get frustrated
And that will be hard for you.
But it is ok for them and they don’t need you to take the challenge away.
This will seem counter-intuitive, because you will want to help them and relieve their frustration. But as I have said before, parenting is no longer intuitive. Only in the last fifty or so years has parenting become so interactive with children. Children used to watch each other or help out with chores all day and there wasn’t time for a parent to just “be” with their child. Now a parent’s job is to hang out with their children and that puts us into many situations where we can “help” our children but we end up helping too much.
But you aren’t going to let your child run around the neighborhood completely independent so since you will be around your child, you can coach your child when a challenge arises. Instead of doing it for them, helping them out of a fix, you can talk to them and:
1) Tell them that they can do it!
2) Offer up some solutions of ways that they can solve their problem.
3) Acknowledge how hard it is and that it might take a lot of work.
4) Sometimes you can empathize and talk about hard things that you do and how sometimes it is really frustrating.
This way of parenting is hard, and will cause more tantrums, but in the end will be worth it and you can do it!