Parenting: Choosing the difficult road in order to make life easier in the long run

Teaching children to be independent is a long and bumpy road - it’s often better in the long-term to walk beside your child and let them learn at their own pace, says EIMEAR HUTCHINSON
Parenting: Choosing the difficult road in order to make life easier in the long run

Shot of a little girl having fun baking with her mother in the kitchen

IT would be fair to say that sometimes the inspiration for my column strikes me at the strangest times.

I was contemplating this week’s article over the weekend and as I sat down to have a bun with my coffee, it struck me. The bun was made entirely by my ten-year-old, from start to finish she made every bit of it herself.

As I sat back eating the bun against a chorus of appreciative munching, it made me think about all the times I spent baking with the girls over the years. I am the first to admit it took me a long time to start enjoying the mess that ensues when you bake with children, but despite my reservations, I persisted.

As I finished the bun, I realised that often in parenting we have to choose the difficult road in order to make life easier in the long run. I could have chosen to not bake with them, I could have measured the flour out myself, or I could have baked when they weren’t around but what would that have taught them?

Certainly not how to make a bun for their mother to enjoy by the time they were ten.

There is a lot about parenting babies that falls under the guise of ‘short-term pain, long- term gain’. Sleep, for us, was the biggest challenge with the younger two - it was a challenge with them all but it was the younger two that broke me and left me almost too tired to drive safely. We ended up getting professional help sleep training the youngest and it was a challenge but the alternative, not sleep training her, would have been a challenge too.

Many times during those few months we were fit to throw in the towel, but it was worth it in the end once we emerged from the fog and reached a point where I could lay my head on my pillow and be fairly confident I wouldn’t be woken until morning.

Any parent will testify to the morning struggle that comes with getting children dressed and ready for school. I send my four- year-old up to get dressed about an hour before we go to school and every morning I still end up telling her to hurry up. Of course, I could go with her, help her pick her outfit and help her get into it, but what does she learn from that? Instead, she goes up and chooses what she likes (which I can assure you is often a strange combination of dresses and trousers) and she puts it on by herself. It gives her the chance to discover what she likes and teaches her she can do things for herself.

Teaching children to be independent is a long, bumpy road that you trapse along for your entire journey through parenting. 

We could pick our children up and move them along at the pace we move at, but it’s often better in the long run to walk beside your children and let them learn at their own pace.

When they get older and they come up against worry or strife in school as a result of friends or classmates, sometimes you have to let them go through it by themselves while you stand back and shout advice from the sidelines. You coach your children how to deal with the fighting or the minor bullying and then you have to let them see if they can figure out how to handle it themselves with the help of their teacher. It’s not always easy to see them upset and our natural instinct is to jump in and sort it out for them, but how can we expect our children to become adults that know how to deal with conflict for themselves if we don’t let them learn as children?

If you have children involved in sports too, you will surely encounter many instances that make you want to hide your child away from it all. 

They may not always get picked to play, they may experience the rougher side of sport, and inevitably they will experience losing. And while it would be a much easier parental experience to steer them clear of sport, they would learn nothing from the avoidance.

Art is another constant learning experience for me – I am really creative myself but it’s not enough to just set an example, I must lead by one too; I have to let the girls get involved and experience creativity themselves. And trust me, I struggle with this one too because any parent who has encouraged their little Da Vincis know all too well how much work is involved in setting up a craft activity, cleaning up after painting, picking playdoh out of your socks for days on end... and don’t even get me started on the glitter. It’s an effort but my ten-year-old (I know, I do have other wonderful children, she just seems to be shining in this article!) was able to create a large piece of stunning abstract artwork for our bedroom which saved us a fortune and it’s a constant reminder that in life the harder road is sometimes worth taking.

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