I think most parents spend too much time doing things for their kids.
About a year ago, I retrieved my son from his crib after a nap and decided to try something new. He was barely walking and could say only a couple of words. We didn’t know exactly how much of our conversation he could understand yet. I was curious so I asked him, "Jackson, would you turn off the heater, please?" I knew he liked to press the heater buttons but didn’t know if he understood what they did or the words “on” and “off.”
To my surprise, Jack waddled over to the heater and pressed the power button to turn it off! I'll be honest, I was stunned. It soon became my mission to see just how much this kid could comprehend and follow instructions. Putting away toys, carrying in groceries, and retrieving various items became jobs that he excelled at and really enjoyed.
At this point, I started to think that maybe we underestimate the abilities of our children. Perhaps this is because we want something done right and it is faster to do it ourselves. Or perhaps the child has succeeded in fooling us into thinking they can't do it because they are stubborn master manipulators! Or maybe it's just the parenting instincts that kick in and compel us to take care things for our child.
Whatever it is, it's not great parenting.
Children who learn they can get their parents to do things for them know that they hold the real power. If they feign ignorance, stall, or make a scene, the parents often cave and the child wins the battle. In the big picture, however, the child has lost the valuable lessons of hard work, responsibility, and character.
I regularly catch myself about to do things I know my son could do. He's actually a lot more capable than I initially think, especially with a little patient instruction and consistent modeling.
Here’s the point: Our goal as parents is not to make life easy for our children. There is no guarantee of an easy life anyway. Our goal, in this instance, is to train them to have responsibility, consistency, a good work ethic, and character.
There is a reason so many parents are described as “helicopters” who hover over their kids to make sure everything works out for them. Parents can even be “lawn mowers” who prepare the path for their kids by running ahead and removing any potential obstacles in life.
To develop mature and responsible children, we should not do for them what they can do on their own.