“I don’t think my child can do it just yet”
“How can my 2-year-old do THAT?”
“Ah, he’s still so small. It’s okay, let me do it for him!”
Somehow I hear such sentences quite often when it comes to adults’ views of little children.
ie. Small children cannot do many things and therefore they need to be helped a lot by adults.
We parents often ‘underestimate’ young children’s potentials and capabilities While of course it is true in many ways (eg. A one-year-old cannot prepare her own breakfast, a 1.5-year-old cannot yet thoroughly shower himself from head to toe, etc), I personally feel we parents often ‘underestimate’ young children’s potentials and capabilities.
We have this tendency to do most things for our young children (and rarely give them the opportunities to do things for themselves too), because we assume they’re not able to do the tasks.
> FOR SURE a 2-year-old can’t just yet put on her own shirt and pants? So we adults need to always put them on for her.
> FOR SURE a 1-year-old can’t feed himself? So, adults need to always spoon-feed him.
> FOR SURE a 1.5-year-old cannot put on her own shoes? So, we need to always help her with her shoes (even slip-on sandals!)
They all eat on their own (at least 75% of their meals) before they turn twoWhen it comes to doing things for themselves, all my three kids learn quite a few tasks since young.
eg. They all can put on their shoes by the time they’re 18 months old. They all eat on their own (at least 75% of their meals) before they turn two.
[Eating out together, just the three of us back in Singapore : Anya was 4, and Vai was 22 months]
When we’re all getting ready to go out, our 3yo Brie (like her two older siblings when they were her age) would get dressed all on her own, ie. Put on her shirt, underwear, pants, button it up, put on her socks and shoes. All ready to go out.
(Actually, what mostly happens is, I ask her to get her clothes ready, after telling her ‘where’ we’re going. She then picks what she’d like to wear, ask me whether it is appropriate for the occasion, and put them on when I say it’s okay)
The main issue is more about whether or not WE LET OUR YOUNG KIDS try and do things ON THEIR OWN.Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to brag about my kids, because that is totally not the point.
All I’m trying to say is, any normal kids would be able to do what my kids do.
IF, only IF, they’re given the chance to do the tasks by us adults, and IF they’re guided by us.
The issue here is not about whether or not our young kids COULD DO THEM.
The main issue is more about whether or not WE LET OUR YOUNG KIDS try and do things ON THEIR OWN.
[Our second child, Vai, when he was 13 months: Learning to use the fork and self-feed some banana pieces]
Do we LET our young children TRY and brush their own teeth, towel dry their own body, comb their own hair, fold their own clothes, etc?
Do we let them try to do things on their own even when it means :
> They get it wrong in the first 50 tries
> They make a mess unintentionally
> They do the tasks in a much slower speed than WE do
> Us spending extra time and effort to guide and teach them especially in the beginning
> Us spending extra energy in cleaning up after their mess when they first learned to do the tasks
What usually happens is, adults simply TAKE OVER without thinking much about it.
Especially, because we do things faster and with less mess, right? (applies to parents, grandparents, nannies, helpers, friends of parents, etc)
Well, … to me, I believe … whenever we TAKE OVER, and hardly let our children do things on their own, we actually are ‘crippling our children’.
We are stopping them from being able to do things that they otherwise could do.
Let your children do really simple tasks first, and let them experience ‘success’, over time. So, what should we do then, you may ask.
Hmmm, if I could make a suggestion, this is what I’d share with you:
> Let your children do really simple tasks first, and let them experience ‘success’, over time
eg. Allowing a one-year-old put on his own sandals. Yes, even when he ends up wearing the left sandal on his right foot (After he puts both on, we then come in and teach him which one goes on to which foot, and how to identify the left and the right sandal, etc)
> Once he has more confidence (from our verbal encouragements too), he could then move on to other tasks. Gradually getting more complicated as he gets bigger.
Food for Thought:
The more tries, the more opportunities of practice, the more able he’d feel, the more successful attempts he’ll have.
ie. When children are allowed to explore and attempt to do simple tasks on their own since small, they’re more likely to have the confidence to explore and attempt bigger tasks when they’re older.
[Anya : Self-feeding at 3yo]
Is this all easy to do?
I’ll be honest with you, … no.
It’s not that straight forward. And just like us adults, learning a skill takes time.
Plus, don’t forget that they’re still in the process of coordinating their eyes and hands too.
Some kids may take longer to learn something than others.
And, it does require patience and consistency on our part.
But really, it is worth your while.
Let’s not underestimate our small children’s abilities and potentials.
Let’s not hinder them from learning and knowing and doing many things since young.
Any thoughts to share?