Parenting: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
We’ve heard it said, “Good things come to those who wait.” To many, the phrase is associated with the virtue of patience. Others may associate the phrase with pop culture, conjuring up images of Heinz Ketchup and their effective advertising campaign. Still, there is another subject associated with waiting that bears mentioning: parenting. Yes, good things do come to parents who wait: confident, creative, self-reliant, and well-adjusted children.
Children of all ages benefit emotionally, socially, and cognitively from being allowed the space to grow, learn, and discover in their own time, and on their own terms. As parents, we feel compelled to help. We provide stimulus, entertainment, and opportunities. We give advice. We fix things. But, what would happen if we didn’t? What could happen if we didn’t intercede, advise, and intervene? Is it possible our children would tap into their own intrinsic abilities to thrive? It can feel counterintuitive to conscientious parents to sit back and do nothing. It may take practice and a concerted effort in the beginning. Yet, with patience, your parently-restraint will begin to yield amazing results.
There are many times we can intentionally pull back on those parenting reins and — wait.
Wait for Development
There is a magnificent pear tree at our local school. As the tree becomes heavy-laden with beautiful golden pears, parents and students attempt to pick the fruit from the tree; however, their efforts are met with great resistance. The fruit clings fast to the tree. What should be an effortless undertaking turns into a two-handed battle as branches bend, but do not yield. It takes great effort to rip the pear from the tree, only to find it has not fully ripened. It is a great labor. Yet, when the fruit is ready, a hand cupped gently beneath the pear loosens the ripened fruit. So it is with our children. When children are developmentally ready to engage, much like a ripened fruit, the exercise is effortless.
Wait for readiness before subjecting children to new activities. Sometimes in our zest to enrich our children’s lives, we push too hard and too soon. Often we assume they can perform tasks that are developmentally beyond their reach. Try and push past your child’s developmental stage and you will experience the same kind of resistance and frustration as the impatient harvesters. Waiting for a child’s readiness allows him to approach the activity with confidence. This is true whether it be a cognitive, emotional, or physical challenge: taking that memorable first-step, potty training, participating in group sports, or learning an instrument. The idea of waiting can be a sore spot with parents when it comes to academics. Yet, much like the ripened pear, children who are ready to learn will readily respond without resistance: they are eager learners. The push for too much too soon can also mean including children in adult conversations or burdening them with mature topics. This can include the news and other troubling or inappropriate media content and images. When the time is right, a child will learn, grow, and adapt.
Wait to Interject Ideas
Wait for ideas to come from your children before offering suggestions of your own. Often a well-intentioned suggestion can derail a child’s chance to tap into his own creativity. This can be especially challenging if your child appears bored and seeks your advice about what to do next. Gently encouraging children to be the creative thinkers, (while letting them know you have faith in their abilities to do so), will result in a positive outcome for parent and child. F. Scott Fitzgerald stated, “You must go by or past or through boredom, as through a filter, before the clear product emerges.” As children pass though this filter, they will become less reliant upon you and gain confidence in their own abilities and instincts. Boredom is actually a gift to your child. Boredom is best viewed as the time and space between ideas: ideas that are self-generated and uniquely their own.
Wait to Problem Solve
Wait to facilitate and mediate. Whether you are helping your infant self-sooth, your toddler solve a puzzle, or your tween navigate difficult friendships, waiting, before jumping to the rescue, will promote self-reliance and encourage self efficacy. It is important to wait and see what a child is capable of on his own. Allowing a child to struggle a bit while wrestling with a problem builds resilience against frustration. Just as boredom precedes creativity, problem solving precedes accomplishment. Gentle encouragement, while allowing space for a child’s efforts, is the best approach. When we fix, show, teach, or push, we rob our children of the ability to achieve. Waiting allows a child to own the “I did it!” And, nothing feels much better than that, at any age.
Wait to Interpret
Wait for children to express their feelings. Sometimes it is difficult for children to express their feelings, however; waiting for a child to name their feelings helps the child process that emotion. Again, there may be times when gentle encouragement is the answer. The encouragement should not take the form of leading questions or assumptions on the part of the parent. It is important for the mental and emotional health of the child to learn to identify and articulate what they are feeling. Waiting for your child to assign meaning to an emotion may require some patience. In this instance, waiting is synonymous with empathetic listening. Waiting creates that “pause” which allows a child to feel safe. It is also important that a child’s feelings, whatever they may be, are heard and valued; whether a parent deems those feelings legitimate is not the issue. Children deserve non-judgmental acceptance from their parents. What a child feels reflects her own unique perception. Naming feelings is a vital emotional tool that builds on itself as your child grows. Waiting provides allowance for the intimacy required in a supportive parent-child relationship.
Waiting for our children demonstrates our faith in their abilities, judgment, efforts, and opinions. It is a respectful way to honor their developmental path towards adulthood. Waiting allows the space for powerful learning moments. As a child’s confidence grows, his capabilities grow, building one upon another. Waiting allows children to reach their full potential. Yes, it can feel counterintuitive to refrain from “the assist” (whatever form it may take), but take heart in knowing that waiting reverences and honors childhood. Good things do come to those who wait.
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