Building on Success


Yesterday, my 5-year-old wanted to “do a project”.  Luckily, Julie just saw an easy idea for a polar bear craft that involves a silhouette of the bear on blue paper with glue painted on to look like ice or snow.  I got online and found a very simple polar bear shape, printed it out and gave it to Olivia to cut out.

Now, so far Olivia has only really wanted to cut pretty straight lines and a few curves.  She’s cut a few arms, heads and tabs off paper dolls which can really make a girl crazy!  I haven’t pushed the whole cutting thing, but have just had her cut the easier parts and then helped her with curves or turns.

Yesterday, I gave her the polar bear and scissors and told her to go at it while I was cooking dinner.  She was worried about cutting off his leg and I just reassured her that if she got to his leg and didn’t feel comfortable cutting around it I would help her after dinner.  She was pretty motivated to get to the slopping glue around and before I knew it I hear her saying, “I did it!  I did it!  I cut his leg out!!!”  She was so excited! Her face was literally aglow with delight, surprise and pride in herself.   She went ahead and cut out the rest of the bear and then decided to make a paper Billy the Exterminator that she could cut out.  (yes, Billy is her hero LOL)

She was so proud to show her daddy and brother and we all made over her, but then my husband and I joked with her about now that she could cut out legs and other tricky things maybe she was big enough to mop the floors, mow the yard, etc….   Olivia looked up at us and said, “Just because I’m big enough to cut, don’t think that I’m ready to do all your work!”

We all laughed and it was funny, but it did make me think about how we use one success to try to build more.  Sometimes I think we push for more too soon.  Sometimes we look at one new skill and then try to generalize that to being a “big kid” and encouraging them to do something else unrelated.   Here are some of the problems with that I can see:

  1. Missing the moment.  If we immediately look ahead to the next task for them to accomplish, we fail to fully revel in the particular achievement they just accomplished–even if that’s as simple as cutting out a polar bear leg.  We miss amplifying those proud, confidence building feelings they are having and miss an opportunity to fill up on our own mom/dad power!
  2. Never enough.  We can totally, accidentally, unconsciously send a message that what they’ve done is not good enough… and if repeated often enough over time, imagine how this could pile up and smother a child’s self-confidence.
  3. Our agenda.  Let’s face it.  The things we usually push our kids to do are as much for our benefit as theirs!  We are tired of cutting paper dolls… or embarrassed that they are still wetting their pants… tired of dealing with the long drawn out bedtime routine…. fearful of all the “what if they never’s”, etc….  Of course we want our kids to become more independent, but remember, pushing a child is not how we create a healthy, confident independence!   We need to trust our children to know what they need and place boundaries around how we respond to those needs so that we don’t find ourselves meeting every want.  (that is what spoiling is)
  4. Missing the point. Sometimes we are so focused on wanting them to achieve a milestone that we miss the point of what they may be achieving by NOT doing something.  Many of our children who had rough starts in life have a real need for their parents to help them dress themselves, brush their hair and the like, even though they are physically capable of doing it themselves.  By not being so independent, they are achieving a closeness and experience with the parent that they might not otherwise have.
  5. Internal vs. External. When we push and cajole and tempt them into achieving something we want them to achieve then they are being externally motivated.  Internal motivation is partially achieved by being in the moment of success with them and helping them fully experience how good it feels to accomplish something.  Internal motivation is there even when we or someone else is not holding a carrot in front of them.
Here’s the hard part–all of this requires patience of course, be even more so, it requires a parent to really have faith and trust that it will happen, maybe just not according to our schedule!
The challenge is to walk beside our children rather than go through life pushing them from behind.
Where are you walking in your parenting journey?
Heart of the Matter Seminars

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One Response to “Building on Success”

  1. Renee Says:

    Thank you so much for this gentle reminder.

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