It is easy as a mother to want to rush to the aid of a seemingly helpless child. They are such a small person in a huge world and they must require assistance to make their lives easier. We feel compelled as their caretakers to remove the burdens from their lives and carry the load for them. “They will have their whole lives to worry” we often hear from our elders. This is their only time of being worry-free and carefree. From getting dressed and brushing their teeth, to preparing their food and doing their homework, we, as mothers, feel that it is our responsibility to help them (or do it for them) so that they don’t struggle or fail.
Children learn through play. Their social-emotional development skills give them confidence that they need to develop loving and supportive relationships. Through play, they are learning much-needed problem solving skills.
For instance, Timmy may appear to need assistance with his shirt and mom may be eager to give it him. However, she has to step back and allow him to try to make a few mistakes. This is also an opportunity for him to learn confidently how to ask for help. Maggie may look like she needs help with her toys or reading a book. She is learning scientific concepts with what sinks and floats.
Children learn mathematics about balance while building a tower, and literacy skills while trying out new vocabulary or storytelling as they ‘act out’ different roles. Mom may want to correct or help her child articulate and enunciate, but she must let them learn and let their imagination grow as the stories develop.
The ‘do nothing’ mom is one who can sit back and let her child learn. She is content with stepping back and watching as Timmy accidentally spills something on the counter or table (not the couch). She recognizes that he is constantly learning about cause and effect. Why did his item spill and what can he do next time to avoid it? She also realizes that Timmy is building self-esteem and self-confidence that will be necessary in his interpersonal relationships with other children. The ‘do nothing’ mom is able to allow them to make a mistake. Then, when he/she asks for help, she ‘does something.’ She demonstrates how to complete the task successfully. Mom may also make a mistake and then they learn from each other. She is showing that she is not perfect and it is okay to mess up. Assisting also helps the child learn that they are loved and that mom is fun to be around.
It is hard to sit back and ‘do nothing’ but you will thank yourself later when you have a self-sufficient adult with high self-esteem and high self-confidence. Every moment is a teachable one, not just for the child, but for the parent also.