Autonomy. That was the big buzzword when I was studying Early Childhood Education in college. The theory was to develop self-governed, independent thinkers who were then able to take on the world and help themselves as expert problem solvers. Sounds good, but what it really meant was that if you had independent children in a large group, the more they could do for themselves, the less energy and work a teacher had to put out.
I believe the autonomy theory to be a good parenting tip as well. The more independent my kids are, the less I have to do, taking some of life’s burdens off my tired shoulders. What it means is, when they are hungry, they find a healthy snack on their own and so on. While I have a little more time to do other things, I have wonderful, independent children.
Somehow, however, my youngest has been informed of my crafty trick and insists on being helped when he could very well figure out on his own how to help himself. I have been plagued a lot lately with, “Moooom, I need help!”.
Of course, due to the natural law of our universe, good parenting always backfires at some point. I found myself one day, on the opposite side of our house from him. I was minding my own business, and I thought he was on the computer playing his educational games. I heard him call, yet again, so casually, “Moooom, I need help”. I ignored him for a while, hoping he would figure that problem he had on his game. “Mooooom, I need help”, he called again. With a big sigh, I wondered what trivial thing I had to help him with this time, and moseyed on through the house, ever so slowly.
I noticed that he wasn’t at the computer, so I ventured into the kitchen when I heard him again, “Mom, I need help”. Poor kid, I found him hanging for dear life from the kitchen cabinets! All I could think of as I rescued him, was how long he had been hanging there, his little body draped over the counter and with a vice grip on middle part of the cabinetry. I felt so guilty about at first ignoring him, then walking through the house so slowly. I was then impressed with his stamina.
What had happened was, he was hungry and took a break from his game to look for some fruit leather that we had in the cupboard. To get into the cupboard, he had to get up on a stool, and as he reached, the stool slipped out from under him. As he fell, just like in the movies, he managed to grab the middle and bottom of the cabinets to hang on.
I couldn’t reprimand him, since I am the one who enforced the autonomy theory around the household. He simply was doing what I expected him to do. All I could do was laugh (which he didn’t find very funny). I know now, however, that the next time he wants a snack, I won’t be laughing, because I will be the one who will be hearing, “Moooom, I need a snack!”. Stupid backfires.