“Hey sweetie, I could use some help. Would you empty these water bottles, refill them, and put them in the garage fridge?”
This task is more complicated for our youngest than it would be for most kids her age. She asked several dozen questions, which I most often answered with, “I don’t know, you decide” or “You can figure that out on your own”.
It took her a long time. She had to mop up the floor a few times. And we discovered later that one of the 6 water bottles leaked all over the inside of the refrigerator because she didn't stand it upright and failed to seal the lid well.
None of that would have happened if I’d stood over her. Directed her. “Helped” her. But a lot more wouldn’t have happened, either.
She wouldn’t have had to think for herself.
She wouldn’t have learned that the world keeps turning if you make a mistake.
She wouldn't have learned that she is capable. Sure, one water bottle leaked, but 5 didn’t - and what did, she cleaned up on her own. With that, she has a few extra credits in her confidence account.
Last week our older daughter’s raft took her far from the shore of North Forest Beach, where we were vacationing. I’ve heard many accounts of people being stranded a mile or more out to sea because of this very thing. They panic - they don’t know what to do. I’m not sure I’d have known what to do.
There was no authority figure around to verify for her that she’d drifted too far from shore – it was a conclusion she had to arrive at on her own. Based on that assessment, she took a risk: she got out of the raft. No one directed her to, she made a decision and acted on it. She tried to pull the raft in, but couldn’t - the water was well above her head, and swimming was too difficult with it in tow. She didn’t waver - no time for that. She left the raft behind and swam for shore.
Who told her she could do that?
I'll tell you who.
Big deal? Maybe not to you. But to a 10 year old (and her parents), it was a very big deal indeed.
She has more than a few extra credits in her confidence account now, too.
And so do I.