08 April 2011

Let's Try Again!

I was listening to EC and LR play and heard EC said, "Let's try again!" I have to admit that this simple statement made me a little emotional. Toddlers are easily frustrated by stuff that they cannot do. Its the basis for a lot of tantrums - whether they can't do it because mommy says no or because their little hands and coordination level prohibit it doesn't matter. They just get frustrated and quickly. I've struggled with this because I pretty much have the patience of a toddler. And I've got the frustration level and the tantrums to prove it. How can I ever teach my kids to be patient when I've never been able to master it in my thirty plus years?

EC can dress herself all on her own, but she frequently claims she "can't" so that I'll pitch in and do it for her. She's especially inclined to use the word 'can't' when putting on shoes and socks. They frustrate her. I get it - the heel ends up on the front of her foot or they are too long and difficult to pull all the way up. Socks are not the easiest article of clothing to put on. She frequently brings me the socks and tells me that she can't put them on, usually, without even trying. So, I tell her that if she gives it three best tries and still can't get them on, I will help her. Getting her to try once isn't too difficult, but the concept of trying again and again until she gets it right is not one that she really wants to grasp.

I get this too - I don't like to keep trying at something that I might still end up failing at. Its quite a difficult skill to master to keep putting yourself out there knowing that if you fail in the end its all on you and not just because you didn't try. To me, this is such an important lesson for her to learn, though. The reward for doing something that you didn't think you could do is far greater than the risk involved. And putting yourself out there is pretty much what living life is all about.

When EC gives her socks three best tries, she doesn't come back to me even more frustrated with her socks in her hands. She gets them on every time and comes over to show me how proud she is that she finished it all on her own without my help. And I ask her every time, "Doesn't it feel good to do something that you didn't think you could do?"

And so, when I overhear EC telling her sister that they should try it again, it makes me smile. She's getting it. Of course, she still comes to me frustrated and she still has to be told to try to put her socks on by herself, but somewhere, she's starting to realize the payoff for trying again. And even better, she's teaching it to her little sister. Maybe, if I listen and watch carefully, she'll be able to teach it to me, too.

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