Friday, April 12, 2013

"Don't Do For Them What They Can Do Themselves"

This is the motto that I’ve tried to follow recently with my kids. I’m not sure if it is true or not, but I heard that Mother Teresa used that motto with the poor in Calcutta. For example, she would nurse them back to health but then would teach them how to care for themselves once they were able. This isn’t because she was stretched or had a coldness of heart. This is because she had an understanding of the human psyche and the need for a healthy sense of pride and ownership of ones own person.

I don’t believe that self-confidence is solely a result of praise from others. It is a result of knowing your own self-worth. There are some people who if all the people in the world praised them they would still have a deep inner doubt of their own attributes. Others don’t need praise to know that they are worth something. So what is the difference? I know there are many factors – some of which we can do nothing about, but one piece of the puzzle is how a child is raised. I want my kids to have a sense of accomplishment and a desire to do good things without me holding their hand in order to feel secure.

I don’t think treating my kids like they are endlessly dependent on me is helpful. Yes, they are vulnerable and needy (especially when they are young), but each phase of their development come with a whole new set of things that they are able to do on their own.

At 2-years-old, my son isn't going to make peace between countries or climb Mt. Everest. But with encouragement and love, I pray to instill in him the knowledge that one day he could.

Obviously, this is done in baby steps. And it takes more time out of an already cramped and busy day. But helping to empty the dishwasher (my son particularly loves putting away the silverware), wiping the kitchen table, clearing his dish, putting his socks in the drawer, helping with dinner... These are all things that slowly demonstrate to him that he is a capable person and that I trust him at his particular level. I don't even have to praise him (though I do anyway!), I see in his eyes a pride of what he has done.

I think a lot of us moms feel at times like our job isn't as valuable as it really is because we can't see the forest through the trees. We see chores, hassle, work, whining, endless cleaning, etc., when in reality there is nothing more important than what we are doing: forming a PERSON. He's not going to be a child forever.

I worked in finance before becoming a mom, so the word “investment” has a very particular meaning to me. If you think about what we do as parents, this is the best investment we have or will ever make. Wow. I’m not sure about you, but it makes me think.

I know we are all busy in this day and age, and I know even I can't always take the time to do everything I want to with my kids. But what has helped me is to be conscious of slowing down and trying to get back to the basics. If dinner takes 10 more minutes to get on the table it will be OK. The world won’t end. And if by allowing my son to help put away the laundry it doesn't make it to the drawer perfectly, they can still wear it. What's important is that they are learning. And I am learning, too.

And what more important lesson is there than that they are worth the time and they are loved?

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