I was in a home recently with a 7 month old child who was this close to crawling. She was able to get on all fours and lurch forward, but wasn't quite strong enough to push off the pads of her feet yet and really move.
Her mother commented to me that she noticed her daughter would try harder, cry less, and make greater improvements when left to practice on her own, without an encouraging parent right next to her.
This was not the first time a parent shared this insight with me.
By stepping back and watching from a distance, we empower our children to problem solve, persevere, and develop intrinsic motivation. This is much harder for them to do with a helpful parent nearby. We can in fact do more to help our children by doing less for them. But, wow is it hard to do!
To help parents practice doing less, I start my parent-child classes with a few minutes of observation. The toddlers or infants are in a safe space with plenty of interesting activities, and the parents and I are able to watch how they move and play. Parents tell me this is super difficult, but when they are able to stop interrupting and just observe, they are absolutely amazed at what their child can do.
You can adopt this practice at home. First, design a safe environment for your child, or find one you can visit.
Once your child is settled, take 2-3 minutes to just watch. Look at how she is moving her arms and legs. Or watch how he attempts to solve a problem.
Keep an open, curious mind and you'll be amazed at what your child can do too!
As you feel comfortable, increase your observation time. You'll soon be able to tell when your child truly needs help, comfort, or is finished with an activity. And, you'll find that itch to offer your help is not quite so strong anymore.
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Leanne Gray, M.Ed is the owner of The Prepared Environment, which supports families in creating an ideal environment for their children at home. She has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained. She particularly loves to hear from you! You can always contact her for personalized support and answers to your questions.