The Positive Discipline Tool Avoid Pampering has to be one of my favorite tools. And while it sounds pretty easy, I think many parents might find this the hardest tool to stick with. The tool card says: Parents make a mistake when they pamper in the name of love.
I have made myself heard on this topic in the past, here and here. Maria Montessori made it clear that when we do something for a child that he is capable of doing, we are putting up an obstacle in the way of his development. I believe this wholeheartedly. Children learn to be capable and self confident by doing things for themselves, making mistakes, struggling and facing challenges.
To avoid pampering does not mean that you withhold love or affection. Tell your children you love them, hug them daily, and encourage them, just don't help them when they don't need help. Don't rescue them when they don't need rescuing, and don't tell them what to do when they can figure it out on their own. Yes, even telling them what to do next is pampering. Here are two examples a bit of a morning routine with a 2 year old.
Example A: Mother says, "Let's go. It is time to go to grandma's house. Let's go get your shoes and sock." Mother grabs shoes and socks while holding the toddler's hand. "Let's put your shoes on." Mother puts the shoes and socks on. "Okay, lets go get in the car." Mother picks up the child and puts him in his car seat, and buckles the car seat. Off they go!
Example B: Mother says, "It's time to go to grandmas house. You need to wear shoes and socks, please." Toddler goes to grab his socks, brings them to his mother. Mother says, "I see you found your socks, please put them on." Toddler tries to put the socks on and then asks "help, please" when he gets to a point of frustration. Mother helps as little as possible to help him get the socks on. Mother says, "What d you still need?" Toddler looks at his feet and says, "shoes!" He runs off to find his shoes. Mother allows him to attempt to put his on shoes, and helps when necessary. Mother says, "Okay, you are already. Let's get in the car." Mother allows toddler to try to climb in the car and into his seat. She then allows him to attempt the buckles, and helps when needed. Off they go!
The difference between A and B, besides the amount of time it took to get to the point of leaving, is that the mom in B did not pamper the child. She allowed him to do what he could on his own, and by doing so, conveyed the message that he is capable. This kind of experience is possible when you Take Time for Training, and plan ahead. When children know how to do what is expected of them you can show faith in them. Planning ahead means allowing time for children to do things at their own pace, without feeling rushed. Things will not always go this smoothly, and some days your child will actually need more help than others. That is okay too. Some days we all need a little extra help!
At the same time, and for as much as I push for parents to give their children the chance to grow and experience things on their own, I also think it is important to mention the concept: Acts of Service.
One of the 5 Love Languages, as described by author Dr. Gary Chapman, is Acts of Service. Many people feel loved when other people do things for them, and in turn feel that they can best express love by doing for others. This happens to be my love language. When my husband makes the bed before going to work, and washes diapers without me having to even ask, I feel love. This may sound silly to someone who has a different love language. I encourage you to read about the love languages.
Performing an act of service is not only a love language, it is a valuable aspect of humanity, and therefore something that we need tom model for our children. I am not giving you the go ahead to wait on your children hand and foot, but doing something for them or others around them as an act of service is an important virtue to share with them. Balance my friends, it always comes down to balance. Teach your children to love in all the love languages, but try to allow them to do things for themselves too.