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don't do for your children what they are capable of doing for themselves

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

i'm struggling with this (probably always have).  my boys are 5.5 and very nearly 4.  they are good helpers, or at least the older one is, but they also want my help with all kinds of things.  the biggest one is dressing and getting outdoor stuff on (boots, coat, etc).  their same-aged cousins also buckle and unbuckle themselves in the car, but both of mine insist they can't do that, which may or may not be true.  the 4yo loves to brush his teeth (and i finish up for him to make sure), but the 5yo doesn't like to and wants me to do it for him.  the 4yo always wants to be carried, and the 5yo wants to be carried from bed to downstairs in the morning.  they want me to dry them off after their baths.  and there are plenty of things that maybe they would do for themselves, but i find myself doing it because it just seems easier or faster, like cleaning up.  oh, and they are always asking me to come with them when they want something from a different floor of the house, even though our house is small and really not scary.  i usually say no to this, so they convince their brother to go with them.

 

a lot of this is happening in the morning when i need things to happen *now* so we can get out the door.  the 4yo wakes up happy, but the 5yo does not seem rested in the morning and this is mostly when he wants me to do things for him (probably needs an earlier bedtime to get enough sleep, and an earlier waking time to not be rushed).  they both also are probably asking for some of this to get more interaction with me, which is understandable, as they are in full time daycare and spend part of the weekend with their dad (7-8 hours).  however, i came across that line, "don't do for your children what they are capable of doing for themselves," last night when flipping through "a quiet place" (collection of peggy's editorials) and i've been thinking about it since then, wondering how my boys can be more empowered to do things for themselves and how i can feel more comfortable saying no. 

 

how do you handle this?  i guess part of the reason i have a hard time saying no to these requests is that i don't fully understand the "why" of it.  i do understand why it's important for them to learn to dress themselves or pick up their toys, but they do already know how to do those things.

post #2 of 46

 

I have no answer, but would love to hear the respones.  What a great question!

lurk.gif

post #3 of 46

I'm in the same place with my 4.5 year old.  He can do so many things himself, but he wants me to do so much for him.  Which I really don't mind but then I'll watch dh getting the kids ready and my 4 year old is over there tying his shoes and washing his face.  I go back forth between the fact that he's my baby and the fact that he'll have to do these for himself before long.

 

So I have no idea.  I need to figure this out though since soon I'll be doing all the morning routine by myself and if it stays like this it's not going to go well.

post #4 of 46

I totally get where you are coming from.  My DS1 (3 yo) is perfectly capable of doing a lot of things himself.  But it's quicker and less stressful if I just do them for him, especially when the baby is cranky or we are in a hurry (which is almost all the time!).  I think *they* (you know, the mysterious THEY who claims to know how to raise our children better than we do) say you shouldn't do things for them because it will foster independence.  But honestly, if I have a choice, I am not going to repeat "Put your shoes on" fifty times before we finally get to leave.  And lets be honest, it's not like I'm going to be driving to his dorm at college to put his shoes on for him just because I want to get out the door a little quicker!

post #5 of 46

My 5 year old would not be physically capable of buckling herself into the car seat. She is, however, capable of dealing with all of her toileting needs by herself but it's a fight. Yeah, I'm sure I could put my foot down, but I'm not here for advice, just sharing how it is for us. Buckling shoes is not something I have spent a lot of effort on. Actually, only one pair of her shoes buckle, anyway, and it's a new pair. I showed her how but I realized the damn things are hard for ME to buckle, so I'm not planning on insisting she do them. Her sneakers (velcro action) are something she could technically do herself, but not in a way that is comfortable for her. The tongue would be squashed or something and she'd complain and complain. So I do it.

 

I admit DD is a lot less independent than most 5 year olds, but I guess I haven't prioritized it enough to outweigh the struggle.

post #6 of 46

In all honesty, I remember being around that age and getting my parents to do things for me that I knew I was fully capable of. Not because I was lazy or didn't want too, but because they did it so much better than I could and it was a few moments of one of them just focusing on me alone. Plus, I had a feeling that eventually I would be too old so I wanted to enjoy it while I could.

post #7 of 46

My ds really loves and appreciates when I do things for him.  It makes him feel loved, as well.  It's very important to him on an emotional level.  So I try to do things for him when he asks, which is more often when he is tired but less often than when he was younger.  When I can't because I'm busy or tired, he accepts that.  If I refused on principle, he would feel hurt.

post #8 of 46

Both my kids wanted me to do things for them long after they could do it on their own. Part of it was that it's faster, part of it was that it was a time for my attention and love. For my ds in particular, 'acts of service' are one of his 'love languages' (The Five Love Languages of Children is a good book.) Because of that, I've not  had trouble doing things for them, except when I'm tired and cranky. FWIW, both quit asking for help dressing around age 6. Ds is shockingly late in many self-help skills (he's had some motor delays), but he's getting there.

 

What people say about kids growing up fast is true. If you don't mind helping them, then I wouldn't worry too much. If you're still brushing your older child's teeth when he's 10, then we'll need to have a talk.

post #9 of 46

I honestly don't think that there is a day that you just cut off doing something for your kids because they are now capable of doing it themselves.  I think it just gradually diminishes as they grow older.  Dd is 9 and has been able to tie her shoes since she was 3... but there are mornings that we're running behind and I help her get her shoes on and tied still.  I still make lunch for her, even though she's perfectly capable of doing it herself.  She has made lunch for me when I haven't felt well.  She gets me a drink of water if she's in the kitchen and I'm in the living room.  She makes the bed sometimes and sometimes I do.  The key is to teach them to not be lazy about doing for themselves.  I don't think that it's about teaching them that they have to do every single thing on their own that they are capable of doing.  Nobody does everything they are capable of doing all the time... not even adults.  I'd dare say there are a lot of adults that actually use their children to do things they don't want to do themselves, even.

post #10 of 46

Hah, I've got the five year old making me dry him off after baths and put his shoes on, and the two year old insisting she can do everything herself like pour milk from a heavy gallon jug, wash the dishes, she threw a fit last night because she couldn't get her shirt off before her bath and didn't want my help. shrug.gif

post #11 of 46

I guess my question is why? I have two reasons why I do things my kids might be able to do on their own:

 

1.  It's easy to misjudge what kids can do by themselves consistently.  Just becasue they did it once doesn't mean they've mastered it, and different kids are able to do things at different ages.

 

2.  "Acts of Service" is a love language for some people, including my older daughter.  She loves to be shown love by having me do things for her, and I don't plan to take that away from her.

post #12 of 46

I think it is important to remember that they are still young and small.  Even if they can do something themselves, it may be quite difficult for them -- certainly harder than for us.

 

I expect, in my household and my community, that if I ask for help I will receive it.  I want to instill that same sense of cooperation and community in my children.

 

I would venture that Peggy's suggestion is more about automatically doing things for our children rather than giving them the space/time/opportunity to try it for themselves.  For example, if you are not in a hurry to go somewhere and your lo is trying to put on his or her own shoes, it might be best to sit back and let her try rather than jumping in and saying, "here, let me do that for you" before she has asked for help.

 

My big issue here is HOW dd asks.  She is sometimes very demanding and rude.  She might tell me in a mean or whiney voice to do something, or she might just keep saying/whining, "I can't do ___!"  I ignore her, ask her to try again (meaning ask in a different way), or model a better way for her, "Mama, would you please help me ___?"

 

As many pps have said, I am happy to give help when it is asked for, as long as I feel that I have something to give.  I think helping is good.  I also think creating boundaries that ensure self-care (for the parent) is vitally important.  It is essential that a child see a parent that will help when asked, and who will say no when she doesn't have the time/energy/will to help.  I also think our children should see us asking for help when we need it.

post #13 of 46

Well...since I just got through putting ds shirt on for him I guess yeah, I do stuff for them that they are capable of. I mean, my 10 month old CAN use a spoon, but I certainly still feed her. But I try not to let it get the point where I'm preventing them from growing and expanding their own abilities. If I notice that ds is starting to lay on the floor like a baby and kick and cry that he can't put his shoes on, that's a sign for him that i need to back off a little. Last night he vacuumed his own room and windexed the window. At first he said he couldn't do it but he ended up being very proud of himself and pleased with how nice his room looked, and happy to go to sleep in his "brand new clean" room. If I had said OK and done it for him I would have taken that away from him. But then the night before that I rocked him like a baby for about 10 minutes at bedtinme, because that's what he wanted. I figure it all will balance out.

post #14 of 46

I still do most everything for my daughter.  Part of it is that she never went through the "I can do it myself" phase.  Another thing is that she never fought us on things like brushing teeth or getting dressed - I would say, it's time to brush your teeth and she would let me do it.  She never fought me on diaper changes or putting shoes on.  Another issue is that when she was 3.5, nearly four, she started having trouble walking and we eventually found out it's neurological but we don't know exactly why or what caused it.  She is responding to meds but it's been rough.  She had months where she couldn't walk at all so her strength really went down hill.  We took her for an OT and PT eval (really expensive, our insurance doesn't cover it, so she gets) and she couldn't button a button.  The OT said oh...you  must be an only (she is) but she also has low hand strength.  She still can't button buttons without a lot of frustration on her part but how much is a grip issue and how much is an I-give-up issue, I don't know.  If something is the least bit hard, she quits or cries or both. There were so many things we HAD to do for her and then she wasn't very strong much of the time, or couldn't stand to put pants on.  I don't know what I SHOULD have done.  She can not or will not put on her own shoes and socks, I see her cousins do it all the time.  I worry about this CONSTANTLY but I have no idea how much is personality (easily EASILY frustrated, not independent, doesn't like to try new things, sort of passive), how much is that we've done it for her, and how much is understandable, given the circumstances of the past few years.  I don't know what is going to happen when she goes to school in the fall.

 

In fact, when she first started having trouble walking, it looked very much like she was throwing herself down when we tried to rush her.  We had been pushing her to do more things for herself and I thought this was her way of making us slow down. 

 

I think children build confidence when they're allowed to do things on their own - but mine doesn't want to do things on her own and she isn't very confident.

 

All I can think is that I need to start picking one thing - like dressing herself - and saying, you try now, I need to go do X and if you're not done, I'll come help.  And just see what happens.

post #15 of 46
I guess it depends on the kid, but I find that children feel proud and competent when they become more independent and do something for themselves. Also, after a certain point lack of practice/confidence at things like tying shoes, putting on coats, and wiping bottoms can become a problem when they are not with you.

Also, not to overreach, but I wager we all know grown adults who don't seem to be able to take care of themselves well. My nephew brings his laundry home from college for his mom to do--says he "can't do it like she can." I know many people in their 20s who are totally unable to cook because mom always did it for them--"easier." After a certain point, taking care of things for the child becomes a disservice and sometimes creates a feeling of disrespect. There is some gender stufff tied up in this, too.

I do sometimes do things for my kids that they could do themselves, but I usually encourage them a lot first. I do NOT clean up for them, even though it's easier and faster.
post #16 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnygir1 View Post

I would venture that Peggy's suggestion is more about automatically doing things for our children rather than giving them the space/time/opportunity to try it for themselves.  For example, if you are not in a hurry to go somewhere and your lo is trying to put on his or her own shoes, it might be best to sit back and let her try rather than jumping in and saying, "here, let me do that for you" before she has asked for help.


Exactly.  If someone asks for your help and you can help and don't, that's rude/cruel.  If someone doesn't ask for your help and you jump in and do it for them anyway, same deal.  I think as long as we keep our relationships with our kids respectful, as we would any other relationship, this shouldn't become much of a worry.

 

post #17 of 46
Thread Starter 

thank you for all these good and helpful thoughts!  for sure, they like the interaction and i can remember also enjoying my parents doing hands-on stuff for me (like fixing my hair or tying my shoes) when i was very capable of doing it myself.  cleaning up after my kids is way out of that category though, lol.  and i also definitely see how mastering something new builds their confidence.  i can remember plenty of times when my children have said they can't do something, and i've asked them to "at least try" and said i would help them if they really needed it, and they were so excited to find out they really could do it.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnygir1 View Post

I would venture that Peggy's suggestion is more about automatically doing things for our children rather than giving them the space/time/opportunity to try it for themselves.  For example, if you are not in a hurry to go somewhere and your lo is trying to put on his or her own shoes, it might be best to sit back and let her try rather than jumping in and saying, "here, let me do that for you" before she has asked for help.

 

My big issue here is HOW dd asks.  She is sometimes very demanding and rude.  She might tell me in a mean or whiney voice to do something, or she might just keep saying/whining, "I can't do ___!"  I ignore her, ask her to try again (meaning ask in a different way), or model a better way for her, "Mama, would you please help me ___?"

 

As many pps have said, I am happy to give help when it is asked for, as long as I feel that I have something to give.  I think helping is good.  I also think creating boundaries that ensure self-care (for the parent) is vitally important.  It is essential that a child see a parent that will help when asked, and who will say no when she doesn't have the time/energy/will to help.  I also think our children should see us asking for help when we need it.

this post is really helpful!  i think you're right about the things we do on autopilot, because it's faster/easier, rather than taking the time to do it with our children until they can do it themselves.  those are the things i need to work on.  i also say, "try that again," when my kids are whiny or demanding!  and i really like your whole last paragraph.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by waiting2bemommy View Post

Well...since I just got through putting ds shirt on for him I guess yeah, I do stuff for them that they are capable of. I mean, my 10 month old CAN use a spoon, but I certainly still feed her. But I try not to let it get the point where I'm preventing them from growing and expanding their own abilities. If I notice that ds is starting to lay on the floor like a baby and kick and cry that he can't put his shoes on, that's a sign for him that i need to back off a little. Last night he vacuumed his own room and windexed the window. At first he said he couldn't do it but he ended up being very proud of himself and pleased with how nice his room looked, and happy to go to sleep in his "brand new clean" room. If I had said OK and done it for him I would have taken that away from him. But then the night before that I rocked him like a baby for about 10 minutes at bedtinme, because that's what he wanted. I figure it all will balance out.

so sweet and so true.  thank you.

post #18 of 46


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by loraxc View Post

I guess it depends on the kid, but I find that children feel proud and competent when they become more independent and do something for themselves. Also, after a certain point lack of practice/confidence at things like tying shoes, putting on coats, and wiping bottoms can become a problem when they are not with you.

Also, not to overreach, but I wager we all know grown adults who don't seem to be able to take care of themselves well. My nephew brings his laundry home from college for his mom to do--says he "can't do it like she can." I know many people in their 20s who are totally unable to cook because mom always did it for them--"easier." After a certain point, taking care of things for the child becomes a disservice and sometimes creates a feeling of disrespect. There is some gender stufff tied up in this, too.

I do sometimes do things for my kids that they could do themselves, but I usually encourage them a lot first. I do NOT clean up for them, even though it's easier and faster.



I agree with ALL of this.  My mom kind of always thought we couldn't do things - things everyone else seems to manage just fine:  driving, college, marriage, kids.  She is not fond of effort herself and it's sort of like your trying something (to which the response is ALWAYS going to be, "Oh, you don't want to do that!" and a list of why you can't do those things) offends her.  I am one of those people who won't dive in and just try something without specific directions, and I would prefer someone on hand who knows what they're doing.  For this reason, I have all these simple projects that need to be done - painting a room is a big one - but they never get done because I feel like I don't know how to start.  My much more independent SIL finds this insane.  She's like, just get a paint and a brush and PAINT. It's not that HARD.  For the longest time, I didn't COOK!  I felt like I didn't know how.  For goodness sake, recipes are everywhere!  It's just following directions!  I want my daughter to be someone who is willing to dive and try, even if things don't go right the first time.  I want her to learn how to keep trying.  I feel like I have no idea how to teach her that and even though I mean well, I'm kind of undermining her independence. 

 

This is probably hanging too much on my daughter's (or the OP's kids') ability to dress herself but I feel like there's the kind of parent I want to be and then there's the kind of person I want her to be (I mean, obviously she should be herself but there are some tools I'd like her to have in life) and those things don't really GO together.

post #19 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by loraxc View Post

I guess it depends on the kid, but I find that children feel proud and competent when they become more independent and do something for themselves. Also, after a certain point lack of practice/confidence at things like tying shoes, putting on coats, and wiping bottoms can become a problem when they are not with you.

Also, not to overreach, but I wager we all know grown adults who don't seem to be able to take care of themselves well. My nephew brings his laundry home from college for his mom to do--says he "can't do it like she can." I know many people in their 20s who are totally unable to cook because mom always did it for them--"easier." After a certain point, taking care of things for the child becomes a disservice and sometimes creates a feeling of disrespect. There is some gender stufff tied up in this, too.

I do sometimes do things for my kids that they could do themselves, but I usually encourage them a lot first. I do NOT clean up for them, even though it's easier and faster.


I believe that has less to do with doing things for them when they are young but capable, and more to do with continuing to do things for them once they are older and not only capable of doing those things, but capable of understanding that they are approaching adulthood.

 

post #20 of 46

My mom did my laundry until the day I moved out.  Am I incapable?  No, though, I sure wish I was.  :)  My brother brought his laundry home for a couple of years after he moved out; I did mine as soon as I moved out.  My mom LOVES laundry, so she didn't mind doing my brother's. 

 

It didn't seem to harm us as people, but I do appreciate it more and more with the ever-growing amount of laundry I do as a mother.  So, in that regard, it worked out well for her.

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