Teach them to do it for themselves.
When our daughter was 15 months old we enrolled her in survival-type swimming lessons via Infant Swimming Resource. Maybe you’ve heard about this - children as young as 6 months old learning to roll in the water and float? (See more about ISR here).
We had a marvelous instructor who on the very first day, after seeing the fear in our eyes, said to us:
“If you don’t believe she can do it, then you should leave now. Because I know she can. She needs to know that you believe in her.”
That struck a chord right away. She was exactly right. If we didn’t think she could do it, what were we doing there? I admit I wanted to snatch my daughter out of the water at the very first sign of discomfort. What I didn’t consider was that my behavior was sending clear signals to my daughter that I didn’t think she could do it. Of course as parents we wanted to protect her. The goal of these lessons was to enable her to float, saving herself, if she ever accidentally fell into a body of water. Did we want to sabotage her success?
We trusted in the instructor and in our little girl, and cheered them on through the entire process (which admittedly was at times difficult to observe). At the end of 7 weeks, my daughter completed the course by ”falling” off the edge of the pool, fully clothed. After sinking down into the water, she immediately rolled over and floated. At 15 months, she did this all by herself.
I realized that my children are more capable than I give them credit for.
Allowing children to do things for themselves is integral to the traditonal Montessori methodology. A a very young age Montessori students participate in practical life exercises that enable them to do various things for themselves. This includes what we might consider mundane tasks like getting dressed (buttons, snaps, zippers), cleaning up (washing dishes, sweeping, mopping, laundry), baking, and *gasp* cutting with a knife. This is done for various reasons. Read more about it here.
Our daughter made banana bread in class yesterday. She had been watching other children do it. She knew not to touch the materials or the oven because she had not yet had a lesson, but she was very interested. The spark in her was ignited. First she was given a lesson on it by her teacher. Then she partnered with an older student (5 years old) to watch and assist. After a few weeks she is doing it all by herself. She just turned four.
At home she is delighted to help prepare meals and fold laundry. She can dress herself, brush her teeth, comb her hair, and toast her own waffles. She sweeps the floor, and cleans up her own messes. She is showing her younger brother how these things are done. Without the experience with the swimming instructor, I would still be “protecting” my kids from things that they are clearly capable of doing.
It just goes to show you - if you believe in them and show them the proper way, they can do it for themselves.