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How to not underestimate your kids

Posted February 6
Updated February 7

Letting your kids soar to new heights is usually every parent's goal, but it can be hard helping them get off the ground. Here's how to give your kids wings to fly, rather than keeping them on the ground. (Deseret Photo)

As kids grow, their abilities grow as well. What they understand, comprehend and what they can achieve changes almost daily. While we may “know” this is happening, sometimes it is hard to accept that they can do more than we think they can.

Here are some tips on how to not hold your children back. Instead, push them forward:

Don’t take over

I am really guilty of this one. When I see my child struggling, it is very hard to let them. I just want to step in and take over so they don't have to struggle. Sadly, this is the opposite of what I should be doing. If your kids don’t struggle now with the little things, how are they going to face much bigger challenges later in life? They need to learn endurance and how to recover once challenges are over — which doesn't happen if mom steps in to fix everything.

Learning to get back up and try again takes time and the earlier they learn to do so, the more automatic of a response it becomes. So the next time you see them spill the milk they were trying to pour, don’t take over! If it’s possible, offer to help but if it enables them in any way, it is best to just stand back and watch. As hard as it may be for you (and me) it is the right thing to do.

Have patience

Truth be told, it's faster and easier to just do things yourself...but it takes the opportunity away from your child. These opportunities are important steps in their life. While you are much faster at picking up and putting away your kid’s toys than they are, if you do it every time, they will never learn to clean up their own mess. While you may be tempted to take over your child’s science project, that is taking the opportunity to learn about a new topic away from them.

Teaching is a skill — it takes a lot of patience, love and knowledge. As a parent, you automatically become your child’s teacher. When it is time to clean up, cook, do homework or complete some activity that you want them to learn, give yourself plenty of time. Take lots of deep breaths and don’t underestimate their ability. It may be gradual but after the first few tries, they will be able to do it themselves without any help or instructions from you.

Believe in them

Kids can sense when they have your support or not. If you believe in them, they are more likely to believe in themselves. That extra encouragement from you may be just what they need to keep going, take that next step or achieve something great.

No one wants their kids to fail, but we may be questioning their abilities without even knowing it. For example, when carrying bags of groceries into the house, I am guilty of telling my child that the bag is too heavy for them. As a result they don’t even try. Instead I should hand them the bag and let them decide if it’s too heavy or not. Of course I’m not going to hand my 5-year-old a 40 pound bag of dog food, but I can let her carry in a gallon of milk. In fact, if I tell her she can do it, she will. Sure it may be hard for her, but with my encouragement, she is more likely to do it than if I tell her she can’t without even letting her try.

Make “can’t” a bad word

The word “can’t” is considered a four-letter word in our house. My kids, myself and my spouse are not allowed to use that word. We can explain why something is hard, but not how we are going to give up because we "can't" do something. Talking about why we’re struggling can actually help us come up with a solution. But just stating you can’t do it ends all attempts at trying, finding a solution or giving your full effort. Eliminate it from your household vocabulary.

Don’t rely on statistics

Just because statistics say your child is too young to learn to play an instrument, don’t let that stop you from trying. Yes, statistics are based on research, but every child is different. If you let those stats rule how you parent, you may be denying your child the opportunity to do something they may be really good at. See what interests your child and let them try. It may take a little while longer for them to get it, but that’s okay. They are developing and learning at their own rate and that's what is important.

It may be hard to fight the urge to take over, do it yourself or tell your child they can’t do something, but it is important that you do. By underestimating your child you are doing them a disservice. Let them help you, even if it means a bigger mess then you started with. That is how they learn. That is how they develop into amazing people who feel they have no limits in life, that they can do anything they put their mind to. That mindset starts now, so help them develop it instead of stifling it.

Megan Shauri graduated with a bachelors in Anthropology and a masters in Psychology. She lives in Orange County, CA and is a mother of twins. Contact her at Meganshauri@gmail.com

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