“I’ll do it myself!” (How Identifying with this Desire Can Help Kids)

Adults and Kids Aren't That Different

“I’ll do it myself!”

It can range anywhere from heart-warming to petrifying to hear children in our care say that. But kids are not alone in this desire to do things on their own or in their own way. Perhaps our identification with these feelings can motivate us to give them more autonomy and responsibility.

We as grown-ups know, all too well, the feeling of wanting to stand on our own, to do things our own way:

  • When supervisors hover just a little too much, we squelch the inclination to tell them to, “BACK OFF!”
  • When acquaintances we’re not too sure about find out we’re having a rough day and offer their time in case we need to talk, we politely decline thinking we’ll work through it on our own.
  • When house guests offer to help in ways that make us uncomfortable, we suggest they leave it to us.

If you can identify with any of these scenarios, then you know what I mean. Maybe you can think of other times in your life when you rebuffed someone’s help (or wished you could).

But what about the times our need to do things ourselves interferes with children’s opportunities to make meaningful contributions to what needs done? Sometimes we inadvertently discourage young workers when we say, “You don’t know my system, I’ll just do it myself.” Our need for order, for things to be done our way (aka the right way), can be in direct conflict with kids’ needs to be involved.

In recent months my husband and I noticed that our son was getting away with doing fewer chores than he had before our move to Texas a year ago. We recognized, after the stress of moving, it was easier, in a way, to take care of things ourselves. But the less our son helped, the the more he whined when he was asked to help and complained when housework didn’t just magically happen.

One of the things that our son had helped with before the move was unloading the dishwasher, so we wanted to get him back to that. And since he was a little older we thought he was ready to begin learning to load the dishwasher as well. So, my husband and I made a pact that from then on we would never load or unload the dishwasher without our son involved.

We braced ourselves for the possibility that getting our son more involved with loading the dishwasher meant that it would not always be done “the right way.” I mean, he didn’t know our system! Then again, even my husband and I each have different systems!

Instead of trying to impose a system on him, we’ve encouraged him to develop his own system. As much as we want it to be done our way, that’s how much he wants to do it his way!

We are finding that as we let him develop his own system, his system is improving. Not only that, but since he started doing more chores, he has, almost entirely, stopped whining and complaining. Plus, he started taking a great deal of pride in his dishwasher-loading gig!

Accessing the feelings we have about wanting to do things our own way, we see how important it is to let our son have that opportunity. Instead of keeping him out of what needs done, we have given him opportunities to serve our family. And by letting him figure out for himself what works, he has become even more fit for the task.

Certainly we all have our reasons for asserting the need to do things ourselves from time to time. But when our need to do things ourselves denies children opportunities to learn and grow, we may want to reconsider imposing our need on the situation. We may even be surprised at what kids can do when we let them at it!

Can you recall a time in your life when you wanted more autonomy than you were given? What did that feel like for you? What can you ask or let the children in your life do that they haven’t tried on their own?

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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like these:

Do I Don’t Know?

Stuff You Learn After You Say “I do”

This post was inspired in part by using one of the 52 Positive Discipline Parenting Tools called “Jobs” as a writing prompt. Much of my approach to parenting as been honed by the Positive Discipline books.