Please Don't Help My Kids

I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up and help them climb the ladder. I brought them here so they could learn to climb it themselves.

Dear Other Parents At The Park:

Please do not lift my daughters to the top of the ladder, especially after you've just heard me tell them I wasn't going to do it for them and encourage them to try it themselves.

I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up. I am sitting here because I didn't bring them to the park so they could learn how to manipulate others into doing the hard work for them. I brought them here so they could learn to do it themselves.

They're not here to be at the top of the ladder; they are here to learn to climb. If they can't do it on their own, they will survive the disappointment. What's more, they will have a goal and the incentive to work to achieve it.

In the meantime, they can use the stairs. I want them to tire of their own limitations and decide to push past them and put in the effort to make that happen without any help from me.

It is not my job — and it is certainly not yours — to prevent my children from feeling frustration, fear, or discomfort. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that those things are not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to their advantage.

If they get stuck, it is not my job to save them immediately. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn to calm themselves, assess their situation, and try to problem solve their own way out of it.

It is not my job to keep them from falling. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that falling is possible but worth the risk, and that they can, in fact, get up again.

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I don't want my daughters to learn that they can't overcome obstacles without help. I don't want them to learn that they can reach great heights without effort. I don't want them to learn that they are entitled to the reward without having to push through whatever it is that's holding them back and *earn* it.

Because — and this might come as a surprise to you — none of those things are true. And if I let them think for one moment that they are, I have failed them as a mother.

I want my girls to know the exhilaration of overcoming fear and doubt and achieving a hard-won success. 

I want them to believe in their own abilities and be confident and determined in their actions. 

I want them to accept their limitations until they can figure out a way past them on their own significant power.

I want them to feel capable of making their own decisions, developing their own skills, taking their own risks, and coping with their own feelings.

I want them to climb that ladder without any help, however well-intentioned, from you.

Because they can. I know it. And if I give them a little space, they will soon know it, too.

So I'll thank you to stand back and let me do my job, here, which consists mostly of resisting the very same impulses you are indulging, and biting my tongue when I want to yell, "BE CAREFUL," and choosing, deliberately, painfully, repeatedly, to stand back instead of rush forward.

Because, as they grow up, the ladders will only get taller, and scarier, and much more difficult to climb. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather help them learn the skills they'll need to navigate them now, while a misstep means a bumped head or scraped knee that can be healed with a kiss, while the most difficult of hills can be conquered by chanting, "I think I can, I think I can", and while those 15 whole feet between us still feels, to them, like I'm much too far away.

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Marcy Jane Chabot July 09, 2014 at 10:04 AM
I learned a difficult lesson with my daughter. I tried to make everything right for her and protect her from all that I could, but in doing this, I never taught her to deal with disappointment and not getting things she really wanted because it just wasn't attainable. We went to Medieval Times for dinner. The knights were choosing a princess and she didnt get picked. I had never really let her deal with disappointment prior to this incident so when she wasnt chosen, she was heartbroken and there wasnt anything I could do to soften the blow. Kids need to learn that sometimes they get what they want and sometimes they dont. They need to learn that can have things if they really work for it, but not everything is attainable. They need to learn the concept of consequences when the consequences arent big, so that they can deal with the big ones easier. I agree with the writer on this one. Kids need to learn many lessons and the onus is on the parent to teach them. Other parents, while their intents are good, have no right to assume that they know better. Incidentally, if some stranger touched my child, irregardless of why, I would flip right out. It doesn't matter that you are trying to help my child. You are inadvertantly teaching my child to allow strangers near them. How would you like it if I decided for you what your child needed help with and ignored your wishes. This is a two-sided coin.
Becky July 09, 2014 at 10:50 AM
When I was a kid, I never learned to speak up for myself, and defend myself -- from being hurt, to being accused, to being taken advantage of. My mom let us walk all over her, and I had to learn later in life how to take care of myself. This issue is a very complex one that isn't solved just by letting your kids climb a jungle gym by themselves and calling them self-sufficient. I don't think it matters if you let them climb or help them up -- it's how you do it that matters.
Lorna Craig July 09, 2014 at 10:12 PM
Actually you should be there to help them if they fall. Sure let them climb up themselves but even adults need spotters and a slide or monkey bars is quite high to a 18 month old or three year old. My niece had her front teeth pushed back into her gums, a boy at my elementary school died of a broken neck. Sure don't help them up but get up off your behind and act as a spotter if they fall off the top off the slide. Because a broken arm or death is not the lesson you are trying to teach I hope.
Lorna Craig July 09, 2014 at 10:15 PM
Honestly I was blown away by the comment that "I'm not there to help them if they fall" off the top of the slide or the monkey bars....guess that is for the EMTs. What it wrong with acting as a spotter but let them do their thing.


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