Helping Children

I love this post from Demand Euphoria on knowing when to help your children. Basically: If your children are struggling and not in imminent danger, let them figure things out on their own – unless they ask for your help.  Obviously, you’re not going to let your kids “struggle” alone with putting out a dangerous fire or crossing a busy intersection. But there is incredible value in letting them solve their own problems when they can and want to.

 

I would add one caveat, though.  When our kids are small, the dangers we need to protect them from tend to be immediate ones.  The street.  A cliff.  Unsafe food.  As they grow up, however, the complexity of the dilemmas they face increases, and as their respectful guides, we need to be able to account for more nuanced situations.  Protecting our kids doesn’t only mean keeping them alive; it also means helping them avoid choices that are likely to cause them long term harm.

 

Update:

This article by Mommyfriend at Babble, “When Kindergarten isn’t Kind“, explaining why she refused her son’s request to call a kid’s mom, after he had been mean to him on the playground:

 

BooBoo was playing in the yard and he and his best buddies were looking for the longest woodchips they could find…because obviously. Apparently BooBoo discovered the holy grail of woodchips and everyone got super jealous about it. His kinderpeeps thought he should give it to their crew’s ringleader, and when he refused, all of his friends turned against him as per the kinderboss’s authoritative decree. In an instant, POOF! Exiled.

Obviously the situation was very distressing for my kindergartner. Convinced he no longer has friends, he’s declared that he’s officially through with kindergarten as the lonely keeper of the longest woodchip. I guess it really is lonely at the top.

So here’s the thing, BooBoo asked me to call the kinderboss’s mom so she would talk to her son and force him to be friends with BooBoo again. Um, no. I’m not going to do that. Do I think it was lame for a 6-year-old to shun my 5-year-old over a woodchip? Yes. Do I think the rest of the kindergartners are acting like sheep for turning against my kid? I do. Am I going to do anything about it? No way.

There was no bloodshed. There was or serious abuse. There was just typical playground unkindness, the kind I’m sure my own son has been guilty of in the past to some capacity. If my kid doesn’t learn how to handle this kind of rejection and hostility now, I’m afraid he’ll never make it past the second grade.

There’s a time and a place for Mama Bear and right now isn’t it. I’m choosing to stand back because this time I think doing nothing is the answer.”

 

Seriously?  I understand the reluctance to become a helicopter micro-manager, and we really do need to give our kids enough space to learn to deal with life’s challenges.  The “wood-chip war” waged on her son clearly wasn’t serious enough to warrant intervening against his will, but he asked for her help.  Obviously it depends on the kid, and it could be that all he needs is quiet support.  But in general, empowering a kid to navigate the social world on their own doesn’t mean standing back and letting them be eaten by the playground wolves.  It means providing constructive guidance and tools that can help them succeed.  If Mommyfriend didn’t think a phone call was warranted, she could have sat down with her son and talked about what happened and about what he could do on his own to change the dynamic. Help him identify his feelings about the incident – as well as the feeling of the other children – and understand the power he has to shape his social reality.

 

And if a (non-confrontational) call to the kid’s mother could help – why not? Showing your children you have their back, and helping them navigate social pitfalls with confidence, is Emparenting at its best.