One of the coolest things about being a parent is getting to teach your kids something new. A new game, a new skill, something they didn’t “get” before. It’s a bit of immortality, in a way. Imparting something onto the next generation!
Okay, so it’s not always grand. Sometimes we’re just trying to unload something we always have to do, like getting their own milk or clearing the table after dinner. Potty training. Ugh.
But then there’s the really cool stuff! Teaching them a new game, or showing them how to fix a toy. Helping them get over a difficult step in a lego model, or walking them through a tough math problem.
Don’t be a Nick Burns…
It’s not always easy helping someone learn. There’s always the temptation to just take over and do it for them. It’s a lesson in patience, humility and a half-dozen other virtues. The challenge is to not go all “Nick Burns” on our own kids. Moooove!
I spent a couple hours yesterday teaching my two oldest kids how to play Ticket to Ride. I’m glad I did, but I cannot convey to you just how aggravating it can be. It’s like herding cats. I pull one back, and then the other one wanders off. Rinse, repeat, 50x.
But then, while we were cleaning it up afterwards, my daughter said, “Thanks for playing a game with us, Dad!” And it’s worth it again. :)
— Grant Winney (@GrantWinney) January 23, 2016
Why do we tend to take over?
For me, it’s any number of things…
- Lack of patience? If you want something right, just do it yourself. Amiright?
- Our GTD culture? The sooner we get this task done, the sooner we can “check it off”.
- A packed schedule? Each week goes by so fast. You want my help? Fine, let’s just get it done!
- Pride? If the science fair project, gift for mom/dad, whatever, isn’t done perfectly, do we look bad? Will we be judged? What if all the other kids’ projects look better?
I was looking up some tips on how to make a good pinewood derby car, and came across lots of stories of parents who took over and did too much, like this one:
Ken D. said he “actually had a Scout who couldn’t tell me which car was his to take home after the Derby! I think as a boy goes through Cubs, the car should look worse each year as the youth does more and more of the work himself.”
How embarrassing. And I don’t mean for the kids.
It’s not about less, but a different kind of involvement
I found forum threads where organizers were brainstorming ways to make sure the kids had a chance to learn. Do we parents have so little self-control? I’d be pretty self-conscious if my kid’s car stopped half-way down the track. But I’d be flat-out ashamed of myself if my child didn’t even know which car was his!
Right now, my 9 yo is doing a 30-day lego challenge. My wife found a calendar with a random idea for each day. My daughter asked for my help, and I’ve been fighting the urge to just do it for her.
Well, to be honest, she asked for help the first night right after I got home from work, and I suggested she just do it and show me afterwards. That’s when she told me she’d been thinking all day that it’d be fun to do together… guilt trippin’ at its best!
So we sat down to it, and I had to fight the urge to replace one piece with another, or make it more sturdy, or make something more even. She got pulled away to finish up some school work, and I had to make myself stop adding to it. :p
Like the derby cars, these things should be rough around the edges and less than perfect… “the car should look worse each year as the youth does more and more of the work himself.” I like that. It’s a good reminder.
She’s working designs over in her mind. She’s working the small pieces with her fingers, practicing her fine-motor skills. These are all good, necessary things.
We forget that before you can run, you have to learn how to walk. Imagine deciding that we already know how to walk and run, so we’ll just carry our kids around forever.
We should be there to encourage them when they need it, catch them when they need catching, and sometimes.. just get out of their way and let them create.
Even if it’s not exactly how we’d do it.