This post is an extension of, The Benefits of Allowing your Baby to Struggle. Through observing my daughter, El, I discovered the feelings I projected onto her experiences were interrupting her play and process. The following promises emerged as a guide, so I can better support my daughter as she discovers her potential and navigates her world.
Making promises is easy, keeping promises takes practice.
Our playtime started in the usual manner; I laid El down on her back with a few simple toys scattered around her.
I promise to believe you are capable.
El ignored the toys that were closest to her and began to take interest in the one toy I placed at a challenging distance. In this case it was a bright yellow jar lid. She reached, reached, and reached some more. Straining her body and arching her back, she crossed her midline with both arms and legs until she almost flopped over on her belly. After her first attempt she stopped, looked at me, cried out and then paused. At this point I began to sweat.
I’m the one who put the jar lid so far away in the first place!
I can fix this!
It doesn’t have to be this way!
It’s my fault she’s struggling!
I promise to give you permission to fail.
But instead I did nothing. I acknowledged her frustrations and continued to observe. I watched in suspense as her fingers grazed the jar lid, pushing it further away.
How long should I allow this to go on?
I promise to accept you fully, as is.
Periodically she looked at me, red-faced and crying, and then suddenly turned back, focused on her chosen task. I learned my daughter is persistent.
I promise to give you
time to succeed.
Then something happened. She switched strategies. She began pulling the blanket
the lid was sitting on. With a few gentle tugs, the lid moved closer. She picked it up, waved it around and smiled at me.
I smiled back and said, “You did it!”
Phew, she did it.
Anxiety was replaced with the calm of relief and we were both giddy with delight. There are times throughout every day I give into temptation and fall back into my old habits of avoiding the tough feelings that accompany struggle. However, when I swoop in and ensure success, the experience is never as satisfying, engaging or interesting for either of us.