How To Handle Help

MotherI have an adult student who won’t let me touch a single piece of artwork she’s working on. Why? Because her mother always re-did anything she ever produced as a child. Nothing was ever up to her mother’s standards!

I have a husband who would get very, very ratty if I ever pointed out some problem with his DIY handiwork. Why? Because his father was always telling him how to do things and criticising the job he had done!

It is sometimes hard to prevent oneself from making similar errors, even if not to the same degree. Your little child wants to wipe the table. You watch as smears are produced and parts are missed and the temptation is to grab a cloth and do a brisk and thorough job yourself. Ever felt that way? I certainly have and it has been a hard lesson to restrain myself and leave the child to be happy with their product.

There is a school of thought claiming it is vital that children are taught to do things properly. Of course that’s true. The trick is to differentiate between teaching someone how to do something correctly and making them feel that there was no point in doing the job at all. As they say, there is a time and a place for everything. If you want your child to be ready to help you with any tasks, then you really need to show appreciation for the help they give.

Put yourself in their position. Your neighbour asked you to help her get ready for a party. She asks you to arrange some flowers, perhaps. You produce what you think is a beautiful display. She comes along, pulls the flowers out and says, “Actually I prefer the roses on the outside,” or something of that sort. She then rearranges the entire vase herself! How do you feel? I don’t have to tell you how you feel. A few incidents of that nature and you would arrange to be pretty busy next time she asks you for assistance!
A child feels exactly the same!

If, however, she had explained that she was fussy and shown you exactly what she wanted beforehand, it would have been a very different story. You’d probably have been delighted to have produced exactly what she desired and checked with her that you were doing it right. Your child will not resent you showing her how a professional chef cleans the table! In fact she will probably check with you, in exactly the same way, that she is doing it right.

More important than how well the job is done is that your child shows a willingness to help. More important, even than that, is your appreciation for that help.

In my opinion, how busy you are or how perfectly a job has to be done is of far less importance than helping your child to have a happy, productive future. You can help to ensure that for your child by building their confidence with appreciation and thanks.

Guest Blog by Cathy Bird

Since retiring from full-time teaching Art and English and her post as Assistant Head and Sixth Form Tutor, Cathy Bird has concentrated on her painting and now runs art courses and sessions at her own studios in Kent. She also tutors students at all levels in Literacy, Comprehension and Essay-writing.

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