I’m always looking for little opportunities to nudge her into a more independent and capable sense of herself. Sometimes, I retreat. Other times, I don’t. Deep down, she loves to be able to do things herself, as all children do, so when she pushes through, she beams with pride. Yesterday alone had several such nudges.
It started as we prepared to leave home with a dirty dish she plopped by the sink. Nope. I now expect her to rinse it off and put it in the dishwasher herself.
Soon, we were in the checkout line at the grocery store buying new goggles for her to swim. In my hand was a movie to return. I suggested she go and try to return it herself. She resisted.
Me – “Come on, you can do it. You know how to read ‘Return’ on the screen, and you can see the arrow on this to tell you how to put it in. Try.”
She shook her head, squirming a bit. I noticed the lady in front of us, twenty years my senior, glancing, smiling. Maybe she is a grandmother. I sensed she was compassionate towards my girl. I softened but continued…
Me – “What’s the worst thing that can happen? You try and it doesn’t work. That’s okay! Just try.”
With the lady still stealing a smiling glance I acquiesced a bit from my fatherly energy…
Me – “I can walk over with you after I’ve paid, and you can do it.”
Still no answer. But the next thing I knew I was getting ready to pay and she had taken off with the movie! I watched her some fifty feet away trying to do it. The movie slid in and then popped back out. I wondered if she would run back, but she remained calm and tried again… success! She ran back darting around other shoppers and intercepted my high five.
Moments later, we were at the customer service booth. We needed scissors to open the plastic seal around the goggles. I told her to ask for them. She went shy. The lady appeared…
Me – “We already paid for them, but she has a question.”
She gathered the nerve…
Her – “Can we have some scissors?”
As people always are with her, the lady couldn’t have been nicer. Moments later, she was holding her goggles.
On the way out, I said, “Sometimes, I nudge you to do things, and you’re hesitant. But then when you do it, you feel good about yourself, don’t you?”
Her – “Mmh.” (Yes)
We had a fun and playful swim with our friend, and then we headed home for a tap lesson. One more nudge…
She tends to do her steps while keeping one hand on the wall for balance. It’s fine for hard steps, but she has gotten in the habit of doing it on easy steps.
Me – “Take your hand off the wall. You don’t need it.”
She kept putting her hand back on, and I kept insisting she take it off. Our teacher supported my idea but was also fine with her leaving it on.
Me – “I think it’s good for you to take it off and work on finding your own balance even if it’s messy for a while.”
She tried but kept returning her hand to the wall.
Finally, I let go and told our teacher to handle it however he wants.
Being extreme in either direction, in my view, wouldn’t be good for her self-esteem. Nudging too much would be harmful and create a sense of pressure, aloneness and never being able to relax as a child. Nudging too little, well, I know she wouldn’t like that, long-term, as she is someone who likes to gain competency and excel.
A lot of love and praise with little nudges. Oh, and a whole lot of patience!