Your Child’s First Meal Could be His First Step Towards Independence
Parenting in its simplest form is taking on the role of looking after and nurturing a young life, helping this young individual to grow and blossom into an independent, self-reliant human being. We all think of this as a difficult task. Although all of us decide many things before pregnancy, a majority of us are so lost and seek help from all and sundry when this little person enters our life.
A barrage of self-doubt assails us. We think that our parents did it and so we can do it too! How difficult can it be?
The problem lies in our reason for taking on this role. Most of us decide to become parents because that is what is expected of us and not because we want that precious bundle of joy. I am in no way saying that we do not love or want the child. We do love this little person and would do anything for him/her. Therein lies our problem. in our desire to provide the very best for our children we tend to build this cocoon around them. We feel our job is to protect them, give them everything and basically make life easy for them. In doing so we forget the basic aim of parenting, which is to help our children grow into independent individuals.
How often have we heard mothers complain about their children not eating properly, or not doing homework on their own? The problem arises because of the cocoon we build around them. We do not allow our children to sprout those little wings and try things on their own.
When Does True Independence for Children Begin?
When then do we start doing that, when do we take that first tentative step towards making our children independent? What if I were to tell you that it happens the first time your child starts eating? Don’t be surprised, I speak from experience. I did that with my children and it worked.
When you set the table for any meal, set a place for your child. Give the child a tiny bit of everything that is on your plate. This first step is important because by taking this first step you help your child develop self-esteem and confidence. You are sending a very strong message to your child, I trust you and you can do it. Be prepared to cleanup a lot of mess. But it’s all worth the trouble. With each passing day your child will gain confidence and grow more independent. A word of caution here do not jump in and start feeding your child, always remember it is the child’s tummy he will stop when he is done. Do not go with your perception about how much the child is supposed to eat. (I made that mistake and did suffer the consequences)
As the child starts growing up start sharing small chores, making them clean up the place after eating, put plates in the sink. With each step you are helping your child grow into that independent person.
Lessons My Child Taught Me
Once your child starts school do not go back to building the cocoon, broaden the area of independence. The first day of school is so very important (not just for the baby album). I still remember when my son started school, I was probably more excited than him. We took his pictures for the baby album and dropped him (My baby did not cry at all). When he came back from school, once again this over-excited mom wanted to teach him how to write “A”. What I wanted to do was to hold his hand and help him write. I was looking for that emotional high (sounds cheesy no), but all my sense of thrill came crashing down as I remembered that my son is a left-hander and no amount of strange maneuvers worked. Finally my baby was so tired that he raised his tiny little hand and went all Zen on me saying, “Mama, wait, it is like this slanting line, slanting line, sleeping line”. Lo and behold my son had written “A” beautifully!
I was wonderstruck at that. When did my baby become so smart (Don’t we feel that surge of pride when our kids do something and also feel that only our child can do it?). Instead of me teaching him anything, he taught me that I should trust him. That day onwards, I reverted to my most loved afternoon naps. I would take out his books place them on his table and tell him, “Mama is going to sleep when I wake up your work should be done”. I can very proudly say that these tiny steps ensured that both my children learned to complete their work on time.
You can try this too, but always remember never to give up. Parenting is not a one day wonder. We try and fail sometimes while we may succeed on other occasions. There is a bonus to all of this. Once you have conditioned your older one, the younger ones just mimic their behavior .My daughter followed everything her brother did and I just watched this wonderful bonding blossom.
If I were to share some practical things I did with my own children, it were these;
* Make your child pack his/her own bag. (No matter how much help you have, it is the child’s job)
* Make sure the uniform is prepared at night. Get your child to do it at his leisure himself.
* Teach your child how to take care of his/her shoes. (You may not believe it but this is the first lesson in grooming and personality development that you can give your child).
Begin by taking these baby steps with your little ones and you will be able to manage them without ever having to say that my children are finicky eaters or that they never do their homework.