Loosening the reigns: Allowing children to learn things for themselvesSubmitted in Parenting by Tiffany Fletcher on February 27, 2013
We all want our children to succeed, and sometimes that desire gets in the way of their learning. Here are some suggestions on how parents can take a step back and allow their children to learn things for themselves.
We all want our children to succeed. Sometimes that desire gets in the way of their learning. Rather than allowing our children to learn things for themselves, we tell them what they need to know to save time and speed up the process. This isn’t always the best way for our children to grow. Here are some suggestions on how parents can take a step back and allow their children to learn things for themselves.
1. Provide opportunities to choose. Too many times, parents make all of the choices for their child, never allowing him to make choices for himself. Giving our child the freedom to choose forces him to live with the consequences of those choices. You don’t have to give total control all at once, but youcan start by allowing your child to choose between two or three acceptable choices. This still allows you a bit of control, while still allowing him the flexibility of a personal choice.
2. Allow failure. Too often, parents push an idea of perfectionism onto their child, making her believe she is not good enough if she fails. It is important that we allow children to fail at things in order to teach them that it is a natural part of the learning process. Do not make your child feel bad when she fails, and encourage her to try again when she is ready. Anyone who has ever taught a child to ride a bike understands this process. She will fall off the bike as she is learning. It is a natural part of the learning process. As parents, we must pick her back up, give her a hug and stand by her as she tries again — and again, and again. When your child succeeds, teach her humility. Teach that success comes from trying, even when you’re afraid you’ll fail.
3. Don't give out all the answers. Too many times, parents are quick to give their children answers without giving their children the opportunity to find the answers for themselves. In the long run, an answer that comes from a parent can be disputed. An answer that is self-obtained and actualized becomes a part of a child and is not something that he will easily part from.
For example, I told my children that we were going to start eating healthy. I told them why, but there was still a lot of complaining. So, I decided to have them research why eating healthy was important. For an entire week, they looked up websites, watched documentaries, and focused on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The difference this made in my children was amazing. They learned for themselves why a healthy lifestyle is important. Now there is no complaining. They even remind me to keep the refrigerator stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. Let your children find the answers. You will be glad that you did.
4. Do not hover. Helicopter parents hover over their children, watching their every move. Sometimes helicopter parents make the moves for their child — from fighting their kid's battles to negotiating his wages. Don’t be a helicopter parent. If you want your child to succeed in life and learn for himself, then don’t take the learning opportunities away from him. Every opportunity given to your child is an opportunity for him to learn — from friendships to a bad grade or a difficult teacher. Of course, there will be times when your help is needed. Don't step in before your child has had the opportunity to try and resolve the issue on his own. Give advice and counsel, not answers. Let him solve his own problems and come up with his own solutions. Most importantly, let him fight his own battles.
5. Encourage your child to read. Reading will open up all kinds of learning to your children. If you can help your child develop a love of reading, then you have given her one of the greatest opportunities to learn things for herself.
6. Ask your children questions. Often times, children struggle coming up with answers because they don’t know what questions to ask. Help your child learn for herself by asking her questions without giving her the solution.
For example, if your child is having difficulty with a teacher at school ask, “What do you think you could do to help fix the problem?” If your child is struggling in math, ask, “What do you think you could do to help your math score?” Help your child resolve his problem without giving him the answer, but by helping him find the answer with your guided help.
Allowing our children to learn things for themselves is a difficult thing for many parents to do because it requires that we take a step back and watch them take the lead. But as we allow this to happen, we will see our children gain greater confidence in themselves and their abilities as they learn to solve their own problems and learn greater insight into their own lives.
Tiffany Fletcher is a home-schooling mother of five, a motivational speaker, and the author of "Mother Had a Secret: Learning to Love my Mother and her Multiple Personalities". She uses her own experiences to help others overcome adversity and find hope and meaning in their lives. You can like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. She blogs at http://motherhadasecret.blogspot.com/