Earlier this month I missed one of my posts. It's because I was so swamped that day and the week leading up to it. It was the Utah State Competition for Odyssey of the Mind. I was a coach for one of the teams from the local elementary school. Seven rambunctious 8-9 year old boys with half of them diagnosed with ADHD. I learned a few things in the 6 months leading up to the competition, one of them that I never want septuplets, the second that children in this day and age need to be taught creative and self sufficient skills.
The point of Odyssey is to form teams and give them a problem to solve during the school year. It usually requires them to produce a skit and build a structure or remote vehicle that can accomplish a task within a certain set of rules. Oh, and the kids have to do it by themselves. No outside help at all. Even coaches can't tell the kids how to do something, suggest a solution or glue a single thing. It's all kid powered.
At the start of the year, I was amazed at how little these kids could do on their own. It took them 3-4 times as long to complete a task as it would take me. It was horribly frustrating. I wanted to tell them what to write, how to build their tower, and move on to the next task. But I couldn't without cheating. So I had to work on my patience while the boys figured it out on their own.
This experience made me take a hard look at my parenting style and the other kids at my daughter's school. How many of us have been to a pine wood derby where there's a car that is the biggest and best-- and in no way possible done by a kid? I have known so many parents that "help" make their kids science fair project look better and more impressive. Sure, the backer board might get more attention, but what are they teaching their kids? Take the easy way, do it the "right" way, be the best. If you aren't good enough to be the best, get someone else to help you to be there.
I decided I really don't want my girls raised that way, but it's a challenge. My daughter looks ten times cuter when I dress her. We get out the door faster if I just tie her shoes for her. And the house is so much cleaner if I just put away the toys. But then, if I intervene for the sake of convenience or appearance, my child has learned nothing. But if I let her take the 10 minutes to tie her shoe, she has solved a problem. And there's a sense of pride that comes with it that can't be bought or done for her.
As parents, some times we have a set "right way" in our minds on how something should be done. I know I have a tendency to force my view onto my kids at times. Funny thing though, when I let me kids figure their own way around, they come up with a solution I never would have dreamed of. They can really be amazing. And hopefully, if I teach my kids this creative problem solving and self sufficiency (and patience for myself) then they can grow up knowing that they can do anything, solve any problem, be anyone they want to be.