The importance of teaching your kids self-reliance

We know that you want to do everything you can for your little ones. You want to give them whatever they want, whenever they want it, and cushion their every fall. But we assure you that if you continue playing lifeguard/bodyguard/tutor/entertainer/personal slave, you’ll be denying your child one of the most important things in life: self-reliance. Joanne Kimes, author of “The Stay-At-Home Martyr†explains why you should let kids learn some life lessons on their own.

Crying Todder

We’re not suggesting boot camp for baby or an abrupt kick in the training pants. But little by little you need to separate. If you continue indulging and burdening your children with your Martyring ways, you’ll be spending the rest of your time as a parent (which, consequently, is forever) dealing with some major issues. The first one of those issues being that your child won’t know how to make himself feel better.


Learning life lessons

Self soothing is an important life lesson to learn. There’s nothing respectable about a man who bursts into tears when he nicks his chin shaving, or a woman who goes ballistic when Nordstrom’s Rack is out of her size sandal. Never learning how to cope with life’s obstacles leads to the painful inability to function in the world and resentment toward everyone’s favorite target (Mom). This will continually resurface every time Junior gets fired, dumped, or denied.

For these reasons and many more, kids MUST learn how to self-soothe. But how can they when the Martyr is always there to pick them up and hand them a frosted cookie?


Teaching your baby to self soothe

Although there are many ways you can help your baby learn to cope, one of the earliest ways is to let them fall asleep on their own. We know it’s tempting to rock your baby to sleep. To nuzzle that warm little sour milk mouth in your neck and feel like no one has ever needed or adored you more in your life. We know it’s equally tempting to sleep with your baby. But here’s why all that must stop. First, you’re teaching your child that she’s not capable of falling asleep on her own. By rocking her, nursing her, and lying next to her, you’re basically saying, “You need me and a whole slew of soothing motions, warm elixirs, and persuasive aides in order to accomplish one of our most basic biological functions.”

Bedtime companion

We know plenty of mothers (including ourselves) who have naively thought children would naturally outgrow their need for a bedtime companion. Oh, how wrong we were. Not only did our children become more needy over time, as bigger kids they were capable of getting out of bed, hunting us down, and relentlessly manipulating us like the Play-Doh. I guarantee that your toddler will not approach you one fine evening and declare, “You know what, loving-devoted-mother-who-has-eased-me-into-sweet-slumber-over-the-past-three-years, I think I’m ready to give it a go on my own.” Oh no. The nursing will become “a drink of water in my favorite cup. Not that favorite cup, the other favorite cup!” The rocking will become a twenty-minute back rub. And the lying down with them until they fall asleep will become “lying down with them until they fall asleep and staying that way in case they wake up during the night.”

I know you’re making excuses. You even go so far as to say, ” It’s actually good for my back to sleep on the wood floor in my daughter’s room.” And to that we say, “Bulldookie.” First off, your back only hurts because you still carry your baby around in your New Native Baby Sling…and she’s a toddler! Not to mention the forty-pound Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag that cost more than all the purses you’ve ever owned in your life combined. Second, you’re lying to yourself. There is absolutely no good reason for a grown woman to be sleeping on the floor next to her child’s bed. It’s like the old joke; if aliens on a spaceship watched us humans picking up our dogs’ poop, they’d wonder who was in charge on our planet. And if they saw you sleeping on the floor covered by a Dora the Explorer beach towel next to a one-year-old snoozing in a sleigh crib, they’d know who ruled the roost in your house. And it sure isn’t you.


Nudging them into self-reliance

The key is to begin parenthood with the belief that your child is an individual with the ability to self-soothe. The same “self-soothing” attitude really applies in most parenting scenarios. If you rush to your child when she so much as hiccups, you’re teaching her that everything is catastrophic and warrants absolute hysteria.

What’s the result? A child who falls apart at the sight of a scraped knee. A kid who’s hysterical because his preschool teacher didn’t pick him feed the bunny. I know some kids are more sensitive than others, and that some need a bit more coddling in order to feel secure in this crazy world. But wait for them to solicit your help instead of funneling your “mama’s gonna make it better” mantra down their throats.


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