Every year from the beginning of the school year until about February my kiddos would seek my approval for everything. It’s so sweet and it feels great to be so wanted by these cute (inside & out) kids but after a while it’s exhausting! I have a friend who says her kids just about “mommy” her to death because they’re saying “mommy mommy!” constantly. We love being wanted and needed. Along with a healthy portion of being needed by our children, we also want them to grow up to be independent kids. We know how good it is for our kids to be comfortable on their own. Fostering this takes time, effort and energy, and eventually it pays off beautifully. So, to slow down on some of the mommies every day, give these a go.
In the middle of the 15 things parents and teachers are always doing, when your child says “ look!” sometimes the only words we can manage to get out are “good job!”. We love that they want to impress us and show off their hard work, however we A) don’t have time to do this all day and B) we want them to be happy for themselves.
Part 1: Building independence and self confidence
Aside from not wanting to be constantly interrupted by your child for these simple “good job” moments, we also want to instill self confidence. They are asking you for your attention about things for all sorts of reasons. Two common reasons are: they want your approval, they’re excited about it.
Giving your approval is great, but think about your child at school all day and eventually out in the world. Do you want your child to need approval from the teacher or peers to determine if they did “good enough”? Do you want your child to only care about outside approval? Do you want your child to need the approval of their peers and later on, their boss?
Or would you rather your child to reflect on their work to see if they did their best? Would you like for your child to be able to look at their work and find a few things to improve before turning it in? The habits they get into now stick with them. Here’s how to teach them to do things with confidence and build independence.
Reflect it back to them by asking a question.
When they say “mommy look, do you like it?!?!?” You can say to them:
- Wow, I can tell you worked hard on staying inside the lines. What do you think?
When they say “am I done?” You can say to them:
- What do you think? Does it look to you like you did your best?
- Other add on questions for this one: What part is your best? Which part can be improved? Next time you do this, what will you do the same/different?
When they say “I just read this book!” (or insert other task) You can say to them:
- Congratulations! How does it feel?!
At first they’re surprised and a little caught off guard by this. It’s a new way of thinking! Stick with it and they’ll eventually do it on their own. They’ll start coming to you with their reflections, too and that’s when it gets really fun 🙂
Part 2: If you’re in a pinch and it’s not feasible to have a conversation about it, simply be specific
The next time the words “good job” fall out of your mouth, look again at what you’re telling your child good job for and add a detail. For example,
- Good job, I love how many colors you used
- Good job, I can tell you worked hard to stay inside the lines
- Good job, you are such a helpful sister/brother/classmate
- Good job, you are so brave
I always found that students would glow a little brighter with these more detailed comments and it tells them what specifically they did well. When we know what we’re doing well, we know to do it again.
Part 3: Activities to promote this self-awareness
We want our kids to practice these skills whether or not we’re with them. There are some fun ways to encourage this self confidence and awareness.
In my classroom I had an “act of kindness jar” that worked like this: when you see something or do something kind, you get to put something in the jar. We had dye-cut hearts and the kids could write on the heart if they wanted to or leave it blank. Instead of kindness, you could choose whatever you want to focus on — best work, sharing, cleaning up, etc. Get your child involved and pick an object and a container. You could use beads or pennies or even do this on a sticker chart. Include the whole family! When mom or dad does their “best work” and your child notices and adds a sticker, celebrate that too.
The key to this (as is with most things) is the follow through. We would look at it randomly, we didn’t have this as part of a scheduled routine but it would be great to do it that way too. Look at the jar and acknowledge all the positive things happening. The focus is on the feelings here. Because the focus is on noticing the good feelings that come with the goal, I didn’t build up a big celebration for filling the jar. We would just celebrate the moment and maybe read an extra book or go outside to recess early for more “down” time together.
Give these strategies a go and let me know how they work for you! Come follow me on Instagram, send me a DM or an email and let me know how this goes for you. I’m cheering you on!