Sure, their adult years seem like a lifetime away, but it’s never too early to teach your child how to stand on his own two feet.
When you are a mom, especially if it’s your first time, it seems like you are in a constant state of fear. When Kyle was just a baby, I had all the “what if’s”. What if I let him go out of the house without me and something happens to him while I’m at work? All the possible “what if” scenarios you can think of, I already thought about.
Every mom always has this fear that something bad might happen to their child once they lose sight of them. And so, our tendency is to always keep a tight grip on them, make sure they’re secured and protected. This is true and natural to all moms. But what most of us fail to realize is that we can’t be there for them all the time.
Sooner or later, they would have to figure things out on their own and the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, and allow them to experience life by themselves every once in a while. So I thought that instead of having those fears, I can address them instead by educating my son.
Probably one of my greatest fear as a mom is the fear he will fall out of bed head first. Hee was 12 months when he got fond of crawling on the bed and would attempt to go down every time. I was in constant fear that he might one day try to do this and hurt himself while no one is around.
So I trained Kyle that whenever he wants to get out of bed, he has to let his legs first and not his head. I made this clear to him by grabbing his legs towards the floor. I’d put him back up the bed again, doing the same thing over and over again. And while demonstrating I make sure that I communicate with him, making him understand that going down head first is a big no-no. I did train him twice for 15 minutes each before he got it right. I was surprised that he did that independently when we had a trip in HK last Dec. My mom got so scared and she was surprised when she saw Kyle can actually do it alone.
Although we want our children to stay cute and cuddly babies forever, we, as parents, must give the best of what we can to help them grow independent while they’re still little.
Kyle is only about to turn two years old. As young as he is, he has this tendency to keep a tight clutch on me whenever I’m around. He is really clingy. One thing I’m very thankful that even I’m not 100% at home with him, he would really be so close and clingy with me. Sometimes I feel it’s too much but I enjoy every minute of it. I know it’s not going to be like this forever. He would change once he is old enough to make friends with kids his age. So I often let myself enjoy those precious moments with him.
We, however, make sure that he sleeps in his own room. Some parents tell me they still let their children sleep beside them even when their kids are already 5 years old. Sometimes I have doubts as to the benefits of letting Kyle sleep alone.
But then, every family has different situations. Both my husband and I are busy working parents. Whether we like or not, Kyle will grow up seeing how we are struggling for time each day. Because of that, he needs to be prepared to be independent. I and my husband have already made a decision even before Kyle came out that he needs to sleep in his own room so he would grow up being used to it. He wouldn’t feel bad whenever we’re not around. We just wanted to establish certain boundaries.
Independence, indeed, should be taught while they’re still very young. Like Kyle, your child will become independent if they’ve been well taken care of in a surrounding where they feel safe and sound. Separation from his mother is a milestone that’s not easy to get to, but once a child overcomes, would expand his horizon and would bring him one step forward towards independence. The more secure a child feels with their parent, the easier the transition will be through adolescence, teenage years, and beyond.
Getting our kids to learn independence might be our worst nightmare as parents but it comes with a huge payoff: confident, capable kids and tasks removed from our plate. So, stay relaxed. Like me, you may need to deal with more soiled clothes and puddles of wasted milk, but seeing your child being courageous is so worth it. I see it each time Kyle stays calm and unafraid even when some other kid tries to bully or hurt him.
Another thing I thought is important for Kyle to learn is how to keep himself away from danger. It could be something like keeping him away of getting burnt from dispenser.
All babies would follow what every adult would do. Kyle will automatically touch the dispenser whenever he sees someone using it. So one day, he tried playing with the dispenser again. And a “NO” wasn’t enough to stop him. He started crying, insisting to play with the dispenser. So I took a cup, pour in hot water, and said, “Wait, this is why mommy says don’t touch.” I quickly let him feel the heat of the cup enough for him to feel hurt. And his face changed like he was surprised probably thinking, this is something that isn’t fun at all.
I pointed the dispenser and the cup saying “See, it’s HOT. It’s HOT, baby, that’s why I don’t want you to touch it because you will get hurt. You still want to touch?”
He turned away. I thought I was successful. Too bad, he attempted again the next day. But I couldn’t think of any other way to better explain it to him, but just really let him understand why I can’t let him touch. So I did exactly the same thing and explained again. This time I had to let him touch and feel the heat several times so he won’t forget how much the heat hurt. The trick worked and that was his last attempt.
I was surprised when a friend came to visit the house and she asked me about the dispenser if I was using the HOT water and she was surprised when I said “Yes” because she doesn’t use hers even now that her youngest is 5 years old.
I hate the feeling of having thoughts and fears of a possible accident. I’m glad I found a way to teach Kyle how to keep away from danger. There is still, however, one more thing I needed to teach him: not to cry when mom leaves the house without him.
I used to fool him by asking him to go with his nanny inside the room to play or probably get a toy and when he comes back I’m already gone for work. I realized it’s not the best thing to do because he might feel betrayed.
The next time I did the trick, he already knew what’s going to happen next so he wouldn’t cooperate. I was convinced it was not the best way to deal with such a situation. I need to make him feel secure even when I’m not around.
So, whenever I have a meeting nearby, I would bring him and his Yaya with me. I show him that I’ll be working and he will have to stay with his Yaya. He would listen and stay. Now whenever I tell him I have to go out for work, he would ignore me but at least he’s not showing tantrums. I’d explain that I have to leave to work and I’ll be back soon to play with him.
He always had 2 nannies since he was 2 months old. This may seem conflicting with how I make sure Kyle can be independent, but I needed the Yayas because I know I can’t always be around because of my busy schedule. I needed to make sure that when I’m not around, someone looks after him.
Yet, they are well oriented about Kyle. He used be treated with so much care when he was less than 1 year. But now, I would actually tell them that no one treats him like a baby. Whenever he falls, never help. Let him stand up on his own. I probably look like a monster mom to outsiders. Others would attempt to help him and I would say, “It’s okay. Thank you” and I would ask Kyle to stand up. This part, I will never regret and will never care how people would judge a situation like this. Because I am proud with what this strategy has achieved. Now, people are amazed that he can manage to laugh whenever he falls. He finds it funny and okay. That’s exactly how I want him to view life: we fall, but it’s ok. Take it lightly and manage to stand up again.
Having the heart to let your kids handle a few little things on their own is not easy. Change won’t happen overnight. You will need to be a little patient with yourself too. What’s best is that you try or else your kids will be the one to suffer. They will need a lot of strength and courage when they face their own life as an adult and there’s no other way to prepare them than to let them be independent as a child.
I’m speaking from my own experience. I encourage my fellow moms who have stories to tell or ideas about child independence to share their thoughts so we can all learn from each other.
Looking forward to a journey of learning with you, dear moms!