EMPOWERING YOUR CHILD TO BE SELF-SUFFICIENT
As a parent, you may have encountered numerous situations in which your child asks you to do something she can do herself. Your reaction might be to feel annoyed or irritated. All families deal with helplessness from time to time. However, when your child acts helpless daily, then it is time to change that dynamic. Helplessness is often associated with manipulating the parent for attention or power.
Here are a few strategies you can put in place:
1.Train your child to do the task all by herself. Take the necessary time to make sure your child knows how to do a specific task. Oftentimes, a specific skill needs to be reinforced over time. For instance, if you notice your child is having difficulties to put her shoes on, you may want to say something like “I have noticed you seem to have trouble putting your shoes on. Let’s take a few minutes to practice, so it will be easier tomorrow morning before going to school.” Train her on the how-to and role play it. Support your child in a gentle way and it will boost her self-confidence.
2. Set the expectations. As your child grows up, she is capable of mastering more refined skills. Discuss with her what her next tasks will be. For instance, say “Now that you are 5, do you think you can water the house plants?” Also, ask her what she thinks she can handle on her own and evaluate if it is feasible. If so, see how she can do it.
3. Walk away. If your child pulls the helpless card while you know she can do her task, remain calm and simply say “I am confident you can handle it. I will be in the kitchen (or another room) when you are done.”, and then walk away. The exit is essential as it helps to avoid the power struggle.
4. Include the When-Then in your talk. For instance, tell your child “When you get yourself dressed, then you can go outside and play for 20 minutes.” Using the When-Then structure makes the message clear and consistent, without any need for further discussion.
With practice and consistency on your part, your child will get the point that you will not jump through hoops at her whim and demand. In the end, your child will feel empowered as she will become more and more capable at managing her own tasks.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.