It is often said that being a parent is the hardest job on the planet.
While I would argue that being married is equally challenging, I’d have to agree.
Being a mom is fucking hard.
There is no greater task than growing, teaching, training, and raising another human being.
It’s a tremendous gift, burden, challenge, responsibility, and honor, all wrapped into one big messy package.
And we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Being a mom is never going to be easy.
But what many of us don’t realize, what I didn’t realize until I got to about the fourth of fifth kid, was that a lot of those things that make it so hard, the things that make us want to rip our hair out and gouge our eyeballs out, the things that drive us insane, the things that make us wonder if we’ve been talking to a wall for the past five or ten or fifteen years, um…
Our kids aren’t doing those things to us.
We are doing those things to ourselves.
You want to tell me your kids should know.
They’ve been doing the same thing to get ready for school every day for the last 1000 days.
They’ve been doing the same thing before they go to bed for the last 4000 days!
What the hell is wrong with them???
Why don’t they just do it automatically by now???
It’s not because they are little a-holes who are trying to get away with as much as they can.
Okay. That might be it sometimes. Sometimes they just want to see how far they can push it.
But chances are it’s mostly due to something else.
Humans are born being altruistic. They naturally want to help other people, even if it’s to their own detriment.
You see this behavior in children as young as fifteen months old!
Take a minute to see this in the video below.
But you know what we do?
We rob children of their innate desire to contribute because we do it all for them.
I’m totally guilty of this.
How painful is it to wait for your three-year-old to buckle her seat belt?
Oy! It takes fucking forever!
And so what do we do?
Rather than let our kids contribute, rather than spend time teaching them and allowing them to develop the important life skills of independence and perseverance and responsibility, we do it for them.
Because it’s so much faster.
JUST LET ME DO IT!
But what do we do in the process?
We start giving them the message, very early on, that we are going to do it for them. That they are incapable.
We don’t do this intentionally. But it doesn’t matter.
And it becomes a message that we ingrain in them subconsciously.
It doesn’t take long before our kids learn to expect us to do things.
And then they expect us to also remind them. Repeatedly. Before they have to do anything. Ever.
And then, one day, when we arbitrarily decide they are old enough, we expect them to do these things on their own.
Without repeated reminders.
We expect them to take the initiative to do things, even though for the past five years, we have essentially robbed them of this skill!
Go get dressed!
Go put your shoes on!
Go brush your teeth!
Why aren’t you dressed yet?
HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU TO GET DRESSED???
All that time we saved when they were two-years-old and doing things for them?
We pay for it later!!!
And now we are pissed that our kids aren’t independent. That they aren’t proactive. That they don’t offer to help us out. That we have to nag and nag and nag.
The next time your little guy wants to do it himself, no matter how excruciating it is, let him do it! Let him help you!
Of course you’ll have to start reevaluating how much time you allow for things.
You’ll have to invest time teaching.
You’ll have to give up control and be okay with an imperfectly made bed or folded towel.
But the time you invest on the front end, will pay off big time on the back end!
Allow your children to help. Allow your children to contribute. And start young. They want to help you!
In doing this, you give them the number one thing all human beings desire: a feeling of belonging.
But you also teach them to contribute.
What’s one of the biggest complaints from adults these days?
That children are entitled. They expect everything to be given to them without earning it.
Who has created that?
Not the kids!
When we focus too much of our energy on making sure our kids feel like they belong, but very little (or none) on them contributing, that’s what happens.
Too much belonging + Not enough contribution = Entitlement!
So encourage that behavior. Let your little guys contribute! Don’t rush in to the rescue!
As painful as it may be to wait for them to do it, as tiring as the teaching is when they are toddlers, it’s not half as exhausting as dealing with a five- or six-(or thirteen!) year-old who is now all of a sudden expected to do things (with out constant reminders) that they’ve never been able to do!
When your kids feel significant, and when they are encouraged (and required) to contribute, those behaviors that frustrate the life out of you won’t completely disappear, but I’d wager large amounts of money that they’re not gonna make an appearance half as often as they used to.