Just some rambling general thoughts….
- Independence is freedom; independence is an accomplishment. It is the achievement of a goal without requiring physical assistance from another individual.
Research describes critical learning periods for young children. The brain develops in a “use it or lose it fashion”. This does not mean that if you overlook teaching a skill your child will never achieve it, but instead speaks to the ease with which a child can gain skills. Children need early opportunities and encouragement to develop motivation to do things on their own, with the vision that it paves the road towards happy, healthy, confident and capable people!
As parents, we are often surprised to discover a little one has figured out how to turn on the television, take off clothing, climb on top of the coffee table, climb out of their crib or even draw a circle. NO ONE sat down and showed the child how to do it, yet somehow it was accomplished. The twinkling eyes shining back at you, filled with a heartwarming mix of mischief and pride tell their own story. The pride in the achievement of a child’s chosen goal is the reward. Many times, the opposite is true, incidental learning does not come easy and it seems to take forever for that blessed skill to come; teaching the same thing over and over again takes creativity and patience. This is also true for the development of feeding skills! Appreciate the time you are spending with your child, the process as much as the end goal. Observe the learning style your child demonstrates and tuck it away for future years. In both cases, pride is taken in achievement of the independence with a specific task whether it was learned incidentally or through specific, and at times, painful teaching.
In the midst of filling mouths, changing bums, stocking the pantry, keeping a clean supply of clothing, washing dirty hands and faces, putting away toys, and trying to get a bit of sleep, the time and opportunity for independence is lost. It is very common to provide assistance for much longer than necessary, or prolong the need for assistance as a direct result of a lack of experience.
Start early. Step back and question what parts of the day can be delegated to the kids, no matter their age. Do you really need to do it for them or is it easier and faster? Of course it needs to be easier when schedules dictate. On the other hand, Superstore can wait the extra half hour that it adds to your departure time when you let your little one spoon feed herself oatmeal for breakfast.
Find that ONE time in your week when you don’t need to be on a schedule. Environment is very much a limitation/predictor of the ability to provide opportunities for practice. A novel environment with many people demanding the child’s attention makes it difficult to provide that focused time to stick that arm in the sleeve, or find where the zipper fits. The little chair or stool by the back door is a much quieter place to try.
Why not? Two little words resonate with challenge. Powerful words I often overlook in my rush to get my to-do list done on those “home with mama days.”
Why can’t she take off her hat, pour her own milk (from a smaller jug), chase food around a plate with a fork, or put on her own shoes? Why not?