Let Go – Don’t Teach


Putting responsibility in your child 
Have you allowed a 2 year old toddler to walk down the stairs on his own? Do you think you are capable of risking a potential fall?

Lee Chong Jian shared with us in the seminar. He asked his nephew:
“Do you think you can walk down the stairs on your own?”
“Alright, just walk down the stairs one step at a time like this,” he held his little hands and walked a few steps down. After that, he let go and told him he’s going back to the room but he went to observe from a corner.

The child hesitated. Lee came back and asked if he was sure he could do it. He replied yes again and Lee went to hide and observe. The child walked cautiously, and in the end, he made it.

As I listened to this story, I remembered my hubby letting my 2 year old toddler walked up the overhead bridge and down the overhead bridge step by step on his own. Partly because my toddler refused to hold his hands. If it were me, I would have carried him by force against his will and cross the overhead bridge anyhow. I could not bear to imagine how a trip of a foot would do to him. But my hubby let go and allowed him to walk alone. One thing different from Lee’s experience was Lee walked away from the toddler while my hubby was a step in front of him to anticipate a fall. Another difference was Lee’s experience was a home stairway while ours was a long concrete stairway. I would have fainted if my hubby were to walk away from my toddler. Letting him walk on his own without taking an adult’s hand was worrying enough.

Let go and give our children responsibility. But not without some basic rules.

Putting responsibility in our children is like imparting our children an important life skill.

Let your child experience negative emotions
We all grow up handling big and small responsibilities along the way. Being parents, we are naturally protective of our children and hence could not bear to see them make mistakes. We feel sadder than them when they have setbacks.

One day, when I discovered from my girl’s diary that her best friend had ignored her for some months and then decided to be BFF again a few months later, my heart went out for her and I was very sad. Deep down, I wanted to confront the best friend about it but of course it was an impulsive passing thought. I looked at my girl’s solemn eyes and asked how she felt about the cold shoulders. She told me that she would just wait for her BFF to “come back” to her and then with a twinkle in her eye, she added quickly,”She did! She’s always like this. Ignore me for some time and then come back to befriend me again.”

And I start wondering if this reaction will extend to BF (boyfriend).

I am not sure if her way of tackling this issue is a right one. She kept everything to herself all this while. One thing I am glad is that she was cool about it albeit feeling sad. She just quietly waited for her BFF to come back. She was not violent and did not attempt to make any form of retaliation. For this, I am proud of her way to manage her emotions. And I think the best thing I, as a mum can do is to let her deal with such situations on her own and give advice and support as and when needed.

If I do not let my children handle disappointment, sadness, anger and negative emotions, they will never be responsible for themselves.

If they do not learn the hard way, they will take everything for granted and never can appreciate life. They may end up expecting me to deal with all issues for them. I cannot rob them of their basic survival skills for they will fall even harder on a small setback.

I must not be afraid to let them experience negative emotions.

Allow your child to guide you through play

I once heard from an early childhood expert who shared that parents should let go and let toddlers lead the play. Rules are for older children who have reached the age of structured play and older children love rules to be put in place to ensure fairness and all.

And I find it can’t be any truer.

I start to observe Little YT play a simple toy. Many times he does not play the conventional way if left a new toy for him to play by himself.

And why should he follow the proper way of playing when he is at an age of curiosity and led by his own creativity?

Why should we even say,”No no… not this way… you should do this or that!” when he is still exploring the new toy?

I shall remember to let my toddler lead the play and appreciate his creativity until he needs my help and needs my guidance.

It’s again a “let go” mindset that I have to remind myself.

The basic rule for me is:

If my child wants to tread on unknown waters, I shall give him basic rules for safety and allow him to explore, experience and even allow him to fall.

What’s yours?

This post first appeared on Kids R Simple and is the 3rd and last post on “How to deal with children with behavioural problems” series and is what I gained from Lee Chong Jian’s talk. If you have missed the first post on Reach out to your child’s innermost emotions, and second post Put down your expectations on your child, click on the links in the words.

Every parent has their own set of teachings and what works for me may not work for you. However, I would love to hear what works for you and your parental experience! Share with me in the comments!

13 thoughts on “Let Go – Don’t Teach

  1. I totally agree with you as mostly are the mummies cannot let go of their children. As my daughter going to Primary school next year, I afraid of alot of things that she can’t do on her own. Her daddy always say let her do on her own and let go. If once never fall down in the life then she will never learn anything. Same concept as a successful businessman . So I also try to remind myself to let go thinking ..:)

    • Kelly, I am the same! I always have to hold back my urge of doing things for the kids. Sometimes when I am not around at home, I realize they cope so well and do things which I thought they are not capable of doing themselves. We should really let go.

  2. I guess Daddies are the natural risk takers and Mummies just tend to protect more? My husband once share with me that his colleague allow his 7 y.o. son took public bus to school (which is 2 bus stop away) on his own, while his colleague was overseas and can’t send the son to school. Of course, the grandma hid behind and follow him to the bus stop. But I was like, is it safe? I mean there are no known kidnappers in SG but again, anything can happen on the road. What happened if he got distracted while crossing the road? Again, my husband say, if you don’t let them be responsible for themselves, who will be? I have to agree, and is still learning to let go. Its so difficult although we know its a path they eventually need to take.

    • Ah, I have a colleague who did the same. Except that she let her son take the mrt one stop to his house at P1. And this same colleague let her daughter fly solo back to her hometown in China at P3 too. I am thinking hard about letting my gal to go back home herself, but I am still not ready to let go as well haha. I agree daddies are the risk takers. I am not so and I allow all sorts of thoughts to run in my mind to scare me. It will take time 🙂

  3. There is no way that I would let Mr. T, or any kid, attempt to do stairs by themselves and not be at the bottom of the steps to catch them should an accident occur!! So, yes, you can learn and attempt on your own, but I will be there to catch you… and when I can’t do that, I’ll always have bandaids on hand!

    Having said that, since it was just Mr. T and I, there were times that I had to take a breath and just let it go – but it was a couple of years ago (probably the start of High School, 9th grade) that he was talking to me about an issue and I had to ask “Do you need my help coming up with a solution or do you just need me to listen?” and I think that was the best question I’ve ever asked. He was at the age that it was appropriate, and it helped remove the pressure from both of us, he could share more, and I could just listen and not have to solve his problems. I could let him go and learn on his own. It isn’t always easy, but I think it’s right for us, and he’s helping me be the mom that he needs!

    Great series!! I’ve really enjoyed it, even though my son is older, there are some great lessons you’ve shared!

    • My heart goes out to your girl! Even though I agree with you, kids need to be allowed to feel the negative feelings and to sort some issues/ skills out themselves (of course, we’ll be there for advice, to listen and to back them up when needed) but the one thing I can’t help but wonder is why the friend acts repeatedly in such an inconsiderate way?
      Is the friend a good friend when she does this? What will this do to the self esteem of your daughter? Will your daughter understand, that she is valuable and deserves to be treated well? But she sure seems to be very mature not acting out at all!
      What if I one day (when she is older) I find out that my daughter treats somebody else like the friend did to your daughter, that is, she makes somebody sad, how will I deal with it?

      • I feel the same way as you! I was worried about her self esteem and how she felt being rejected by her BFF! I would say that kids being kids, always befriend and unfriend and befriend again. I did the same as well when I was young. However, I wonder if there is any reasons behind the cold treatment. Girls especially, are petty animals, you never know why they even get offended for no reason. So, when my girl invited me to read her diary after many months later, I was so hurt for her but at the same time, I was so proud of how she handled it. I surely hope she would never did what her BFF did to her.

        Now that you reminded me, I think I should find a chance to tell her that she should never feel less valuable and she definitely deserves to be treated well! Thanks for reminding me! 🙂

      • You have a good point in girls often doing that, I remember those girl battles too. Seems so cruel in the adult eyes!

        My husband just yesterday read somewhere that there is a small line between supporting your child to make life easier (=equip to meet and solve problems) and mowing down all hurdles to make it an easy ride (=not allowing a child to meet problems and learn how to solve them). Something to think about.

        Seems to me you’ve been there for your daughter (what a great relation when she invites you to read her diary!), trust her to deal with situations and will even remind her of how valuable she is!

    • I can’t agree more with V. I always look forward to your wise words! I should remember that sometimes the kids do not really want a solution. They just need to pour out to a listening ear! I think very soon I’ll have to ask the same question.

      Come to think of it, it was really a scary thing to let a toddler walk unaided. And why should we push them to be so independent? They’ll learn anyway just at a later time. In my toddler case, he is exerting his little rights of doing things his way and has his own mind. We still allow him to walk on his own, but my hands will always be inches away to catch his fall. Like what you said, we’ll be there to catch you! And I always have bandaids with me 🙂

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