One of the most frequent conversations among my unschool leaning homeschooling friends is the question of when to push a kid to the next level. Maybe nudge is a better word. No one is advocating standing over a child with a wrist-slapping ruler at the ready, but we have all, at one time or another, felt a child of ours might need to be nudged a little beyond their own comfort zone.
This article from the New York Times got me thinking about this again today. This line, in particular, made me think of several experiences with my oldest son: “The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing.”
A friend once told me she’d heard that when you have three kids they can be labeled “the good one, the bad one, and the one that never leaves home.” Given his own way, my oldest will be the one that never leaves. At seven, he insists that he will never get married and have kids. Nor will he become a priest. No. He plans to live with us forever.
As a toddler, he never went through the “Me do it!!!!” phase, and it wasn’t until his younger sister started dressing herself that I started to push the issue a little with him. I mean, if your 2 year old sister can put on her shoes, you need to at least give it the old college try.
When he was 5 and heading off to his one-day-a-week homeschool enrichment program, I insisted it was time for him to take on full responsibility for, ahem, the toileting process. The first time I refused to clean him up he spent 20 minutes moaning and hollering and insisting that I do it for him because “It’s gross! I won’t do it!!!” Yeah, buddy, it’s not a walk in the park. But it’s your bum and your responsibility and if you want it clean, you’ll clean it.
More recently, I decided it was time he learn to make his own tuna sandwich. This is his new favorite lunch and I thought it would be great if he could prepare it himself. The first time I told him he was going to do it himself he fought me every step of the way. I walked him through it. I didn’t leave him to sink or swim. I gave him detailed instructions and helped where he needed it while he regaled me with a chorus of “It’s not fair” and “Why do I have to do all the work around here?” As he sat eating his sandwich I said, “look at that! You made your own sandwich all by yourself!” His response? A growling “Only because you FORCED me to.”
The very next day he took the initiative to make his own sandwich, start to finish, without asking for any help.
You’re welcome, buddy.