Maybe you have a toddler like me that thinks they know it all. Your child is full of independence and very rarely wants your help. And if you are anything like me, you want to step in and help them right away because it would just be easier, and the task would get done much quicker. But wait! Letting your child discover how to complete a task on his or her own is doing so much more than you think.
My son is on the verge of graduating from the Florida Voluntary Prekindergarten Program and now believes he’s a rocket scientist! He’s tasked me with helping him build a rocket to the Moon and apparently, he’s going to fly there all on his own with no help. My head at this moment is spinning. One: How am I going to help him build a rocket big enough for him to sit in? Two: Do I even have enough supplies and junk saved up to build his rocket? Three: How is he going to handle the disappointment when he can’t really fly to the moon? As a parent, the look of disappointment in our child’s eyes is always so heartbreaking, and I did not want to disappoint.
So, we grabbed the craft supplies – lots of copy paper, tape, and glue. Of course, he did not want my help, so I sat back and observed, asked him questions about his design, used encouraging words, and let him know I was available if he needed my assistance. I watched as he tried so hard to glue two pieces of paper together at a 90-degree angle, it wasn’t going to work. After many failed attempts he finally asked for my help. I explained to him why the glue would not be the best option and I asked him to think of another way we could hold the corners together, and he had the bright idea to use tape. Tape saved the day and I had one happy little boy. From there he went on his merry way to building his rocket to the Moon. He continued to find solutions to his rocket-building problems. In the end, his rocket was an eleven-by-eleven-inch box with a popsicle stick floor and lots of pipe cleaner. To me, it looked nothing like a rocket, but he was so thrilled that he could stand in it and pretend he could fly to the moon. His big cheesy smile and “Now I can fly to the Moon all by myself mama,” were all the confirmation I needed to know he accomplished his goal.
As parents, we sometimes need to take a back seat and resist the urge to swoop in and instantly help our children just because we believe something can be done quicker, be less messy or avoid a frustrated child. Your child is discovering what it’s like to problem solve, a tool that they will use for the rest of time. When we witness the frustration, that’s our cue to give them words of encouragement or suggest they try a few more times before we assist. So, if the day comes that my son builds a real rocket headed to the Moon, he’s been equipped to find alternative solutions and cope with his feeling of frustration appropriately. Even by your words of encouragement, you have taught your child how to help motivate and encourage others, a powerful leadership skill.
Loving your child to the Moon and back is also giving them the courage to fly on their own. A great way for your child to learn problem-solving skills is to also enroll them in an early learning child care center or Florida VPK.
*Presented by the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County