Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Favorite Parenting Tool Makes a Comeback

I haven't used this one for a while--it seems to make a comeback every time I have a two year old in the house. It's called: "Can you do it all by yourself, or do you need me to help you?" It's applicable in all kinds of situations (and, as it happens, works well with 5 and 8 year olds, too).

Me: "It's time to leave the store! Let's put all the toys back!" (We were at the UPS Store and they have toys for kids.)

Sean: "No! MINE truck!" and glares at me (which is SO super adorable, just FYI).

Me: "Can you put the toy back in the box all by yourself, or do you need me to help you?"

(In this instance, he needed my help.)

Me: "Everyone, let's get our shoes on! Time to go!"

Sean: "NO!"

Me: "Can you put on your shoes all by yourself, or do you need me to help you?"

Etc. It's a great tool for someone who is learning how not to hit (or throw or bite, etc.).

"Can you put the toy down gently, or do you need me to help you?"

"Can you stop your arms from hitting, or do you need me to help you?"

"Can you keep your spit in your mouth, or do you need me to help you?"

This is a favorite of mine because:
  • It sets the expectation that X will get done, no matter what (minimizing battles).
  • It gives the child a choice in the matter.
  • It is a way for me to recognize that sometimes it's hard for the kid to do the necessary thing.
  • It is a way for me to give the child a chance to do the necessary thing (and often they do!).
  • If the child a chooses self-control and independence, then he gets to experience how that feels in a first-handed way.
  • If the child chooses my help, then he can feel supported by me, a nice Mommy who understands that it's hard to do the right thing.
  • It's a respectful way to communicate and guide.

In other words, this handy dandy phrase is well-aligned with my parenting principles. :o)

This post has been brought to you by a day in which I've needed to help people leave a store, and stop blowing loud whistles in the car while I'm driving, and find a kinder way to ask a sister for something.


Heligirl said...

I love this tack. I use it all the time. It's rooted in giving the kids choices, which I've had such positive success with. I love being able to give them choices, and when I use this (even though sometimes it feels like gentle manipulation), it almost always gets the results I need. Here's hoping it continues to work for a while. :)

Jenn Casey said...

Hi Heligirl! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

This is a great tool because it gives the kids choices. I make sure to give them choices only when they really actually DO have a choice in the matter and that way it doesn't feel contrived to me, or to them.

I used this with my older kids (now 8 and 5), and I know from experience how valuable it can be. Of course each kid is different, but so far it's been a great way to communicate the message "you get to decide who controls your impulses--you or Mom" to my 2 year old.

Thanks again!