This is my 6 year old son, Yonatan, washing the car windows at the local gas station- what pride and joy in his face.
This comes from the delight in doing a task on his own- with no adult hovering/guiding/instructing or more importantly, taking over.
Yes, as adults this is something we ALL do; either because we want to get it done faster (we have an appointment we can’t be late for), more effectively (you like your laundry folded ‘just so’) or because you want to show your child how to do it ‘right’.
But let me share a story with you that might inspire you to look at things differently…
A week ago I was watching a video of one of my private coaching clients and this is what I saw:
4 year old boy was trying to get a wide bubble wand into a narrow bubble container.
The mother whisked the wand away, the boy tried to pull it back.
She insisted she was helping him, poured the bubbles into the cap and put the wand in the cap to make bubbles- explaining that this wide wand would not fit into this narrow bubble jar.
Meanwhile the boy was whining and tugging.
When I asked the mother why she pulled the bubble wand away she explained that she was trying to help him. She knew it wouldn’t fit and she did not want him to become frustrated (frustration can be the beginning of a wondrous breakthrough by the way…).
What happened here? With the best intentions in the world- this little boy was robbed of a learning opportunity (I don’t mean to use harsh language here- but this is what happened).
From the time we are babies and into adulthood we all grow from problem solving; identifying that there is a problem/challenge, experimenting with solutions, finding a solution and then having the wonderful gratification that we figured it out- eureka!
All the while, we are developing brain pathways, creating a foundation for creative thinking and developing our sense of self and independence.
This is CRUCIAL for our children’s growth.
As we all know, life is FULL of challenges and puzzles.
What greater skills can we give our children than the belief that they can figure out a way to work it out and have the skills to do so?
This is especially true for children on the autism spectrum, who are often ‘being saved’ from problem solving opportunities.
Here is how you can cultivate growth from ‘problem solving’ opportunities with your child:
1. Identify when your child has struck a ‘problem’: For example, the bubble wand not fitting into the bubble jar. Simply notice this ‘problem’ and be aware of the OPPORTUNITY for your child to develop self confidence and problem solving skills.
2. Slip into the background: Give your child the physical space s/he needs to work it out without the feeling of someone hovering or guiding or simply be QUIET. You might peek in from the doorway or go to the other corner of the room. Try to get out of the way so you do not disrupt this incredible brain developing process.
3.Become available if necessary. If you see your child trying to work it out and possibly beginning to either become frustrated or lose interest and walk away, simply make yourself available. Come closer- sit down but ALLOW your child to come to you and ask for help. Asking for help is one of the many viable options in problem solving.
Bonus Point: You can also CULTIVATE problem solving opportunities, instead of only noticing them when they naturally occur. For example, allow your child to put his own shirt on, buckle his own seat belt, etc. This creates an opportunity for independence and pride from problem solving.
AND- the summer is the perfect time to practice this. You likely have a less rigorous schedule (going to less appointments, on vacation and not needing to get to school on time). Take advantage of this looser schedule to give your child the TIME HE NEEDS to do independent problem solving and enjoy witnessing your child grow in his pride and positive sense of self.
Wait- before you go- I would love to hear your questions and comments on what you just read- please post below!