Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just say yes

Just for fun ... you must read all the words in quotation marks in the most annoying, whiny voice you can muster. Incidentally, saying yes more often to many of his (reasonable) requests has dramatically reduced the whining.

As Danny approaches the 2 and half year mark, he wants to be included in EVERYTHING. In fact, his favorite phrases are "Try it," "do 'gain" and "want to watch it, mommy." We do it, he sees it, he wants to try it, whatever it happens to be. That includes trying to lift a 50 pound bag of dog food at Sam's Club. He saw Jim do it and began screaming "Try it" as we wheeled the cart away. Later, Jim let him "walk 'round" and he ran straight to the dog food section, Jim on his heels, and tried to grab the 50 pound bag off the shelf. Brilliant!

Sometimes I find myself saying no to his requests because saying yes often means extra work for me. But these days, it's just not practical to say no as often as he asks to do something, anything that I'm doing. And, again, I have to remember that we can take our time. I'm starting to see that "free ranging" a toddler means not automatically telling him or even assuming that he can't do something. Many parents will say, for instance, that their 2 year old can't sit in a chair without being strapped in. Meanwhile, the child is 2 and a half and falling off of chairs because he's never been allowed to sit in a real chair. My son has wiggled in and out of an adult chair so many times that he knows how to do it without falling or hitting his head on the table. Sure, he fell at first and hit his head, but it wasn't a big deal. Mommy and Daddy didn't rush him to the ER assuming he had a concussion and now he rarely hurts himself.

Some parents would obviously balk at letting a 2 year old help prepare food, too, but that's where we are now. Let me assure you that he is well supervised and allowed to help only when I'm not also juggling my infant daughter's needs. But telling him to stay completely away from a hot stove or knives teaches him fear, not respect. It doesn't give him the chance to learn how to safely approach the stove or exactly which end of the knife is sharp. Letting him help usually doubles my work, but triples his self-esteem and delight. So much for "free range" parents being lazy.

Anyhow, here's a list of things I've let him do recently and some self-help skills I've taught or am teaching him:

... drink from a lidless cup while walking around the kitchen (I can't stand those snack cups with a spill proof lid. How the heck is the kid ever going to learn how not to spill his snack?)
... pull a step stool up to the water dispenser at the fridge and help himself. (He was absolutely delighted Friday afternoon to be bringing ME cups of water while I nursed the baby.)
... pull a step stool up to the cutting board and hand me fruit to cut.
... pull a step stool up to the stove while I'm cooking and even put ingredients in the hot pan.
... "stack" the napkins in the basket. (I didn't even go behind him to "straighten" the pile.)
... help put away the food after a grocery trip.
... bring the lighter grocery bags in the house.
... pull his own pants up and down. (in preparation for potty training)
... put his own shirt on (if I get him started, he can pull the shirt over his head and gets his arms in.)
... get in and out of the van and his car seat by himself.

Saying yes to his requests to "Try it" is one small thing I can do to give him confidence and make my job easier in the long run. The goal should be self-reliance, not dependence until the parent believes the child can do something proficiently. Really, who cares if he doesn't stack the napkins neatly or gets a little water on the floor or puts his shirt on backwards at first? We're on the hook for 16 more years, so there's plenty of time for improvement. And I'm pretty sure a few bumps and bruises along the way aren't going to kill him or his self-esteem.

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