When Not to Help your Child

Your child is capable of doing so many things for themselves. Of course, as a parent, you want to help your child when they are struggling or frustrated

The Guidepost Team

Your child is capable of doing so many things for themselves. Of course, as a parent, you want to help your child when they are struggling or frustrated. But for your child's development, confidence, and independence, it's important to pause a few seconds before stepping in. Observe if your child is actually struggling, or just developing new skills.

Here are a few situations in which you might need to ‘sit on your hands’ rather than jumping in to help right away:

  1. Your child is working on zipping up their coat. They make a few attempts, don’t get it right away, and turn to you. Instead of zipping the whole thing up, get the zipper started, working slowly so your child can watch, and let them zip the coat to the top. Next time, perhaps ask your child, “Remember how I did it?” and guide them with words. Eventually, your child will no longer need you!
  2. Opening a container or lunchbox. Odds are, you’ve chosen a lunchbox that your child can manipulate by themselves. Of course, some are trickier than others, but let your child develop hand muscles and coordination by trying to open the container independently. If they need a hand, only open the very corner, and let your child pull the lid the rest of the way!
  3. Putting toys away. “I can’t do it!” might mean “I don’t want to do it.” We all run into these times in our lives, even as adults with a pile of dishes in front of us. If your child is claiming they aren’t capable of picking up a pile of legos, just ‘sit on your hands’ by being present for your child. “I’ll be right here while you pick up your toys.” or “Let’s do this together because I understand that you’re tired after playing and might need some support.”

In other words, only give the help that is absolutely needed. Start to observe your child carefully. Do they need help, or do they want help, or have they become accustomed to helping because it is always present?

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The Guidepost Team

The Guidepost Team is a group of writers and educators dedicated to helping demystify all things Montessori.

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