When I make a mistake, I apologize. When my husband makes a mistake, he apologizes. We are teaching our four-year-old daughter to take responsibility, always. Historically, when I have needed help with something, I was slow to ask and often ended up feeling frustrated and blaming the other for not reading my mind. This is not a character trait I would like to pass along to my daughter so I am changing things for myself. I am practicing this now as a new phenomenon. I share with others, appropriately, and let my needs be known. This is still very new for me but there is so much as stake, not just for me, personally, but for my daughter. I don’t want her to experience the disappointment and interpersonal struggle that I have in my life due to being overly independent.
When my daughter throws a tantrum because she cannot zip her sweatshirt or can’t buckle herself in her car seat, I sometimes have trouble being patient with her. This is partially due to the fact that we share this “perfectionist” trait. I get it. Through my frustration, I tell her that it is okay to ask for help. I do not want this to grow into something bigger for her for I know what the outcome will be and it is not very positive.
Asking for help can be a double edged sword: I am weak if I ask for help and I will suffer in silence by not asking for help. Accurate? Not exactly. I want my daughter to learn that, as humans, we are not perfect and do not employ super-human abilities. There will always be times when we need to ask for help and it is appropriate and okay. I told my daughter this morning if she needs help zippering her sweatshirt, she can certainly try herself, but she should feel free to ask one of her teacher’s. I let her know it is okay, that I don’t have unrealistic expectations of her. And even though I am seen on a pedestal in the eyes of my four-year-old daughter, I make sure that she sees and hears when I ask someone else for help. It is so important to model this for her right now. I feel like we are at such a pivotal moment in her life and it is pertinent for her to incorporate this into her being.
I hope that as she realizes how good it can feel to ask for help and how a relationship can grow as a result, she will carry that experience with her and will remember it as being positive. My wish for her is to trust others and let them in. Allow others the benefit of accompanying her in her journeys, whether it is asking someone for help with a drawing or asking for help reading a book. These can be profoundly positive experiences and I hope she does not make the same mistakes I made and can allow the “other” some space. She will be more well-rounded and solid as a result.
When I pick her up from school later today, I hope to hear from her teachers that she worked through any issues on her own and allowed others to help her as part of that process. I look forward to praising her efforts and behavior. We do not function in silos and we need to teach our children that being independent does not mean erasing the “other.” We can be independent and still allow the “other” to be a part of our experience, for in reality, by allowing the other to be with us, growth will be prompted that would never have been possible without it.