Hands Off Parenting

by kayris on March 30, 2010

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When my son, now 5 1/2, was one year old, he wasn’t pointing or waving. The pediatrician was a little concerned. Developmentally speaking, most children are doing both by a year, and the absence of those skills can be an early sign of autism.

I wasn’t worried though. My child had met or exceeded all his other milestones, was walking well and had no problems communicating. After our appointment, I went home and stewed for a bit because I felt she was being overly cautious and a little alarmist. And when she called a few days later with the results of his lead test, I brought up her concerns.

He wasn’t waving because it wasn’t something he saw very often, since I was a stay home mom and my husband left for work before he woke for the day. Once we made an effort to wave to him and each other, he picked it up easily. And he wasn’t pointing because he didn’t really need to. Anything he needed or wanted was either within reach, or I anticipated his needs, feeding him before he got hungry enough to ask, getting toys before he reached for them.

I was right, his development was fine, but there’s another point illustrated here, and that is that a parent can sometimes be too conscientious.

It’s normal to not want our kids to hurt themselves, or fail at something, or get frustrated. It’s very easy to step in to help them, or to not let them try things at all. We all want to be hands on parents. But is it good for them?

That non-pointing and non-waving one year old is now going on six and is getting ready to enter kindergarten in the fall, where he will be expected to write, to tie his own shoes, carry his own books, put on and zip his own coat, wash and dry his own hands without a reminder to push up his sleeves, and a number of other activities. He’ll have to remember his own homework and work out disagreements with classmates on his own.

That’s why most of the time these days, I’m more of a hands off parent.

He gets his own snacks when he’s hungry, pours his own drinks, and can fix simple meals like sandwiches, waffles and oatmeal.

He makes his own bed, dresses himself, showers by himself and puts his dirty clothes into the laundry room.

When he asks for help, I usually tell him to try it himself first. And when he isn’t getting along with his sister, I tell them to work it out on their own. I only intervene when it gets ugly.

My younger child is 3 1/2 and we’re doing pretty much the same thing with her, on an age appropriate level. (She’s way too small to get a gallon of milk out of the fridge. You don’t really want to know how I know this.)

Being there for our kids and being involved with them doesn’t always mean we need to be right there at all times. We need to let them figure it out on their own sometimes.

Think about it–Is there any area in your life as a parent where you think you and your child could benefit from being hands off?

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kayris (29 Posts)

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