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Vital experience

Childwise By RUTH LIEW

CHILDREN need to learn skills like decision-making and problem-solving to help them grow into independent adults. Parents must first allow their children to help themselves in small tasks rather than do things for them. They need the practice as well as the experience.The idea of being independent for the child is doing things on her own without any help from adults. Free of adult control and influence, children can learn to do things for themselves. They may make mistakes along the way.

Whenever adults do things for children which they can do themselves, they give the message that children are helpless and weak. Children learn to be helpless because they are told that they are too young to do anything for themselves. Some parents may even go to the extent of keeping children away from being independent because they do not want them to grow up too fast. Our job as parents is to help children to take care of themselves as soon as they can. It is discouraging for your child when you do things for him which he handle himself. The baby who gets the toy handed to him by his mother may lose out on the joy of reaching for the toy on his own. The toddler may throw a tantrum because his maid put his shoes on for him. His chance to do it for himself was snatched away from him.

For toddlers and preschoolers, routines help them to know what to expect next, and give them something to look forward to. They participate actively in the routines. Older children tend to prefer their parents setting rules that are workable, such as homework first before TV watching, and being entrusted with the responsibility to keep their rooms clean. No amount of nagging and threats can make a child independent. Once you have said that you are leaving it to your child to do things for himself, keep your word. Do not repeat yourself or lose your patience when he fails to do what he is supposed to do. Stick to your decision and let him experience the consequences of his actions or non-action.

When my eldest daughter was in primary school, she came home with a school project that she was not quite sure how to start. She told me to go to school with her the next day to ask her teacher for clarifications. She told me that she was too scared to face her teacher. Instead of agreeing to her request, I told her that we could rehearse how she could talk to her teacher politely. At first, she was reluctant and fussed over it for awhile. Eventually, she relented and did very well the next day at school.

Children need a great deal of encouragement. They need to know what they can do for themselves. As they discover their self-identity, they appreciate adults sharing ideas and solutions with them. What they do not need is having adults do everything for them and tell them that they are not capable enough. Be patient with your child and accept his mistakes as part of learning. Your toddler may spill some water when he carries his own cup across the room. All you need to do is get him to wipe the spillage. Do not rush to carry the cup for him when you see him being a little unsteady. After several attempts, he will know how to do it with good balance.
It is much easier to make decisions for your children since you know everything there is. Children whose parents decide on everything for them will feel insecure and dependent. All too often we dissuade our children from making their own decisions because we do not want them to suffer or make mistakes. Children learn to develop problem-solving skills through experience. You can tell your child all you like but without practise, he will not remember what he should do. But when he is able to try it out on his own several times, he will remember how to get it right.

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