Sunday, November 25, 2007

Weekly Confession #3: Fostering Dependence

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. I seem to be hellbent on raising children who are entirely dependent on me.

We had a family conference with S-Boogie's teachers at her preschool the other day. The conference went well and I was happy to hear that S-Boogie is having fun, being friendly with all the other kids, and adapting well to change. The areas of improvement that the teachers would like to work on with us don't surprise me. They want to help S-Boogie manage her emotions better (i.e. not break into screaming fits every time something goes wrong) and to encourage her to develop better problem-solving skills.

This goes right along with something SkyeJ noted after spending the afternoon with S-Boogie on Friday. S-Boogie had asked to do construction paper art, it seems, and Skye quickly realized that what this meant was that S-Boogie wanted her to do construction paper art while S-Boogie watched. If Skye encouraged S-Boogie to do her own cutting or gluing, she would insist that she couldn't , that she needed Skye to do it for her.

This is basically how any project goes with S-Boogie. And I take full responsibility for encouraging it. In the past couple weeks she and I have made some cool-looking butterflies, mice, cats, boats, and fish with construction paper, and in each case her involvement is limited to telling me what to make and what colors to use. I don't insist she do cutting and gluing herself because I don't want her to hurt herself with the scissors or make a mess with the glue, and when it comes down to it I don't have confidence in her ability to make that butterfly look nearly as good as I know I can. She wants to make something pretty, and I want to help her. So I do it myself.

There's a similar dynamic when I help her brush her teeth. She is fully capable of doing everything by herself except turning on the water (because our sink has a particularly difficult knob), but I tend to rinse off the brush, put the toothpaste on, and fill up a rinsing cup myself because I know that if I do it the brush will actually get rinsed off, toothpaste won't be wasted, and it won't take us all night to get through a simple process.

The emotional management part of the equation comes into play when she gets frustrated that she can't do things. She'll be trying to build a Duplo tower, for example, and when it falls over she'll cry and scream. I don't like to hear her crying and screaming, so I'll rush in and fix the tower, rather than helping her work through those emotions of frustration and encouraging her to solve the problem herself.

In short, I encourage my children to be dependent on me because I'm a perfectionist and I don't trust children to do everything perfectly.

As penance for my sin I will slap myself every time I start to solve a problem S-Boogie can solve herself or do something for her that she can do herself. I will work together with FoxyJ and S-Boogie's teachers to teach her to manage her emotions and to find creative solutions to problems. And I will buy her some children's safety scissors.

I am sorry for this and for many other sins of my past and present life.


SenecaSis said...

I don't know if all grown ups are like this, or if it's just those who come from families where perfectionism (or at least one person's idea of perfectionism) is expected, but I completely understand your reasonings for doing things the way that you now ask forgiveness for--it's easier, cleaner, faster, prettier, and so many other "-ers". So I applaud your humbleness in recognizing your need to change--and, most importantly, to allow S-Boogie to develop confidence in knowing that she CAN do the tasks that she both needs and wants to do, and that she CAN do them well enough--and maybe even perfectly. The self-confidence that S-Boogie learns will be a priceless gift--for her and all those around her.

Who defines what's perfect and what's "good enough", anyway? When we are young, like S-Boogie, it comes from those we look up to: like parents, teachers, and those others that we learn to live life from. Having the opportunity to learn and practice being perfect and "good enough" while we are young--without rushing or judgment--will help determine what we will be able to accomplish when we are grown up.

Just one suggestion: keep the self-slapping mental or behind closed doors, or you just might get a strange report at the next parent-teacher conference :-}

TK said...

On the positive side, you get extra points for recognizing your contribution to the problem - and determining to change it - when she's only 4, rather than just yelling at her about it as though it's a flaw in her, until she's 44 - and then wondering why she won't change!

But are you sure you can handle this by yourself, Son. Maybe I should come and show you how . . . (Just kidding!)

Craig said...

Similarliy, I never ask my roommates to help me in the kitchen (or anywhere else really). They are utterly useless when it comes to doing anything right, whether it is cutting celery, dicing onions, whipping cream, breaking eggs (without getting shells in everything), whisking sauces, torching custards or just filling the ice cube trays.

So to get it right, I do it all myself.

I am well versed in perfectionism.

However, I do have every confidence in you to learn how to let go and be satisfied with thoroughly mediocre and anatomically incorrect butterflies and/or other critters.

Cricket said...

I have learned one little phrase that seems to help those frusterated melt downs, maybe it'll help S-Boogie...

When the "blocks fall" and baby T comes running screaming about it, I say "OH MAN!! What a bummer!! What's the plan?"

I was floored to find that this simple statement (which is full of empathy for her situation AND places the responsibility of fixing it on her) worked the very first time. She stopped crying immediately, stated what needed to be done and ran off to fix it!

Don't slap yourself around too much, the marks look bad for Foxy J