Monday, July 20, 2015

Parenthood: Week 110 – Ollie Do It

One of the proudest moments I’ve had as a parent was about two months ago, when I was showing Ollie how to open a water bottle. Instead of taking my help, he pushed my hand away and insisted “Ollie do it.”

Since then, “Ollie do it,” has become a common phrase in our household. Sometimes it’s from Ollie telling Diana and me that he wants to figure out something by himself. Other times it’s Diana and I reminding Ollie that he can do something with out her helping. The best is after Ollie accomplishes something like putting together a puzzle and proudly exclaiming “Ollie do it!”

As parents, it’s wonderful to feel needed. This unique sense of responsibility and the knowledge that your child wants you to comfort her more than anyone else in the world is really special.  However it’s important that we help instill a sense of independence and the sense of pride that only comes from doing something without assistance.

We aren’t tough parents when it comes to pushing Ollie to gain independence. We didn’t push Ollie to learn how to walk.  There’s really been no “tough love,” that I can remember with Ollie. Teaching children to be independent isn’t about being demonstrative or creating traumatic situations for children to struggle through.

Helping our kids become more independent is about teaching through small playful tasks. Teaching Ollie how to undress and dress himself has been a lot of fun. It started with him helping me take off my shirt. Then I showed him where to put his hands and how to maneuver his arms. He doesn’t get it all of the time, but when he does he’s really proud of himself.

We show Ollie how to clean things up around the house.  He’s not really good at it, but he tries and enjoys the activity. That’s something that you need to keep in mind with toddlers. When we teach them these tasks, we need to accept that fact that by our standards, they are doing a really poor job. But that’s okay, because when Ollie sweeps the floor, it’s not about cleaning the floor but rather Ollie learning how to contribute to the family household and becoming more independent.

At times “Ollie do it,” can become a cry of annoyance when Ollie refuses help for something he’s not able to do (mostly because of safety reasons). This kind of "independence" can be difficult to deal with but it pales to the joy that comes from the growing number of things that Ollie can do without our assistance.

As parents we want to be loved by our children.  Some parents think that if they remain needed by their children and don't teach them how to be independent, then their kids will always be around, and that  may feel like love.  However, if we teach our kids to be their own people, they will come back to us not to ask us to do things for them but rather to share in the joys of life.  Their love will be based on the pride we have given them, not the things we do for them.

As Ollie learns how to do for himself, we learn how to do for Ollie, helping him to be his own person and face the world with us, not because he needs our help but rather because he wants to share the joys of future adventures.

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