Messy Independence


Your kids need to make mistakes in order to grow, so curb your desire to step in and "help" them.

Q: My children love to do things for themselves, but they make such messes that it's easier for me to do things for them. I just don't have the patience to see them fumble with stuff. Do you think I'm wrong to step in and do things for them?

A: I think you are wrong, even though I understand how you feel. I heard a story about a mother who was sick in bed with the flu. Her darling daughter wanted so much to be a good nurse. She fluffed the pillows and brought a magazine to read. And then she even showed up with a surprise cup of tea.

"Why, you're such a sweetheart," the mother said as she drank the tea. "I didn't know you even knew how to make tea."

"Oh, yes," the little girl replied. "I learned by watching you. I put the tea leaves in the pan, and then I put in the water, and I boiled it, and then I strained it into a cup. But I couldn't find a strainer, so I used the flyswatter instead."

"You what?" the mother screamed.

And the little girl said, "Oh, don't worry, Mom, I didn't use the new flyswatter. I used the old one."

Well, when kids try their hardest and they get it all wrong in spite of themselves, what's a parent to do? What mothers and fathers often do is prevent their children from carrying any responsibility that could result in a mess or a mistake. It's just easier to do everything for them than to clean up afterward. But I urge parents not to fall into that trap.

Your child needs her mistakes. That's how she learns. So go along with the game every now and then— even if the tea you drink tastes a little strange.


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