My three-year-old daughter has just started using the potty. We’ve been inviting her to try it for over a year-and-a-half, but she’s just starting to take to it. She was willing to sit, wipe, and flush, but wouldn’t release anything. She’d even started changing her own poopy diapers, including dumping the poop into the toilet, wiping herself (including her knees which often got dirty during the diaper removal), and attempting to put Desitin on herself. I’d go to try to help her, and she’d say, “I did it already!”
I’ve wondered over the past few years whether I was screwing up somehow waiting so long for her to potty train. There’s so much pressure sometimes to “do” parenting. If I’m not telling the kids what to do, actively teaching them something, or reading to them, I feel like I’m slacking off as a mom. I know that it’s good for them to play independently, and it’s good for them to have space and time to figure things out for themselves, but my anxiety always makes me uncomfortable sitting back, waiting, and letting things happen.My anxiety also makes me extremely ineffective at actually doing parenting when I try. I’ve tried in the past to encourage my daughter to use the potty before, letting her run around in underwear or naked, but then I kept getting stressed out that when she’d sit on the potty she wouldn’t release anything. I couldn’t just accept that this was part of the process, and it was okay for this part to take awhile.Knowing that I get stressed out when I try to get my kids to do something new makes me really unwilling sometimes to even try. My son is six years old, and is not reading or writing as well as some of his friends. I try to work more with him, but I’m afraid to do it more than a couple of times per week because if I try to do it more often than that, I start to get stressed out, he starts to get stressed out, and we’re both kind of a mess, which I figure is pretty unproductive.
I confess that I will go out of my way to try to prevent my kids from complaining. This seems like a really passive way of parenting, and maybe my kids will end up being somewhat spoiled for it, but I know that if I hear a lot of whining, especially if I’m already tired, I’m likely to overreact, yelling louder and longer than necessary, and possibly getting physically rough. I’m terrified of hurting my kids, even though I’ve never done anything that would probably be considered child abuse. I’m just afraid of the power I have being bigger than my kids, being the authority figure, and not being in control of my emotions every second of the day.
I guess that’s one of the many challenges we have as parents. How much do we lead our kids to new experiences, how much do we let them take their time, and how do we accept whatever the results are? There are so many stupid charts about children’s development and when they’re supposed to achieve milestones. I’m more afraid of damaging my kids’ feelings of self-worth than whether they read or write at grade level. Maybe that means my kids won’t go to Harvard (I hope not, that place is expensive), but hopefully my kids will feel empowered enough to figure out what they want to do, how to get what they want, and be confident that they’re wonderful people who matter.
How do you balance helping your kids learn with letting them figure things out for themselves?
Tagged: anxiety, parenting, trust