Just let me do it
It happens, when my 2 year old daughter Georgia struggles with a puzzle. It happens, when my 4 year old daughter Lennox can't seem to get her zipper pulled up on her winter coat. It happens, when my 8 year old son Jaxon struggles with navigating his latest spelling list. It happens, when my 7 year old daughter Scarlett can't seem to sound out a word in the book she's reading. What am I referring to? What happens? What do each of these situations have in common? The common denominator between each of these situations with my kids is struggle. I will be the first to admit, that I struggle daily to watch my kids struggle. I have a hard time watching my kids get frustrated when something doesn't work or takes much longer than needed. Let's just say, it's not one of my finer qualities as a Mother.
Let's talk about my youngest daughter Georgia, at 2.5 years old she has a new found love of puzzles. I love puzzles as a teaching toy, but if I'm being honest watching her connect all the wrong pieces drives me totally CRAZY. I want to jump in and say "Just let me do it," or "Here mom will fix it for you". I struggle with sitting back and watching her push and shove together the wrong pieces. My heart breaks watching the frustration on her face, as she continues to jam the pieces together. As much as I would love to intervene and save the day, I make a conscious decision to resist my powerful urge to do it for her. I let her learn to build puzzles without Mom fixing it.
While all my kids are extremely stubborn, my four year old daughter Lennox takes this to a whole new level. When things don't immediately go her way, she resorts to loud grunting, whining and giving up. In her mind, this ridiculous reaction is obviously appropriate for her moment of utter frustration. The most notable example that comes to mind, is the moment when the zipper on her winter coat just won't cooperate. I often wonder, what kind of strange looks I would get if I (an adult in my 30's) threw a Lennox style tantrum the next time I was frustrated. You know those moments, when you put the coin in your cart at the store and they are totally wedged together. Determined, you pull and shake the cart in total frustration but they won't budge. Obviously I know my ability to channel frustration is sightly higher than my four year old...most days. When she struggles with her zipper, boots or mitts it would be much easier to say "Just let me do it," or "Here Mom will zip it for you." I struggle with sitting back and trying to reason with my thrashing four year old. Instead of always taking over, I make a conscious decision to try and encourage her to take a breath and try again.
My eight year old son Jaxon has officially hit the "eye rolling everything is lame," phase of childhood. Every Monday, he comes home with a new list of fifteen words for his upcoming spelling test. Practicing spelling words has become part of the daily routine in our house. Everything goes smoothly, until we got a word that is difficult. Suddenly I see a shift in the personality of my sweet son Jaxon. In a swift moment, my son rolls his eyes, throws his pencil and begins to proclaim how stupid spelling is. He sits in an absolute huff whining about never getting it right. I could cave in, and do it for him...I could easily say "Ok I'll spell it out for you," or "Let's just skip this one." I struggle to sit back, and let him wrestling with the plural spelling for the word "family," but I do. Instead of doing the work for him, I choose to encourage him to pause and think about his reaction. While I don't abandon my child in his frustration, I sit there with him and allow him to learn. I will admit, at times it's painful to resist the urge to do the work for him.
My daughter Scarlett, has always been known as a firecracker. Scarlett is beautiful, and has this epic explosive personality. I have been very open, in sharing our pandemic home learning struggles with french immersion. In the spring, we made the decision to switch Scarlett to the english stream Her mental health was taking a huge hit, as a direct result of the struggle outside the classroom. To be honest, my mental health was also in rough shape during this struggle. I was constantly trying to help my daughter cope with her endless frustration. Fast forward to today, Scarlett is now in doing very well in Grade two (english stream). We are still very confident with our decision to switch from French to English education. Scarlett is still adjusting to reading English versus French, but overall I think the transition has been fairly smooth. I often find myself reading on the couch with Scarlett. Listening to my daughter struggle to sound out the words can be excruciating. Frankly I often feel my patience quickly fading away during our reading sessions. I could easily get annoyed, I could say " I'll just read it to you," or "Why can't you just remember that sound." I struggle to sit back and let her battle with the sounds. Before someone jumps on my case, I will jump in to keep her on track when necessary but I know that doing the work for her does not help her reading long term. Instead of reading for her, I choose to encourage her and recognize when I need to intervene.
Learning when to intervene is something I am learning as my kids grow and change. Learning the boundary between helping and hindering development, is a huge part of parenting. I don't want to do everything for my children because I feel they would turn into adults who are unable to function independently. I want my kids to find a balance between being independent, and knowing when to ask for help.
As much as it pains me, I will let Georgia mix up her puzzle. I will encourage Lennox not to give up on her zipper so easily and we will celebrate when she conquers this challenge. I will keep supporting Scarlett in her reading journey, but I won't jump in so quickly to read every word for her. My son may hate every minute of spelling practice; however, I know eventually he will understand the connection between putting in the work, and seeing a positive result. I challenge you in the week ahead, make a conscious effort to think about areas in which you might be intervening a little bit early. Our kids are resilient and intelligent little humans,it might surprise us what they are capable of if we allow them space to discover and learn. Now go find some joy in your circus.