This is a topic we have discussed on the podcast and here on the blog before, the importance of work. In any relationship (with our kids, with out spouse, with our friends) each side of the relationship needs to be able to put in a little effort. Effort that produces something, that brings some form of benefit, will be rewarding and give the “worker” a sense of well being, of accomplishment. And if we take away the opportunity for the individual to contribute then we rob them of being able to feel like they are contributing, that they are accomplishing something- we steal their opportunity for growth.
This topic popped in my head again recently when I read an article regarding being a needy person (I tried to track down the link the day after and could not find it). The article went into several areas to determine if you are needy, mainly from a friendship perspective, and how to become less needy. Things like initiating communication (text messages, e-mail, phone calls) and continuing to followup before the person has responded. Issues raised are that you don’t give ther person a chance to respond if they are busy or perhaps they don’t want to respond as quickly or often as you. Suggestions included an approach whereas you send a commincationthen wait for a response before sending another, regardless of the impatience you may feel. Also, general suggestions for neediness include finding something else to do, a hobby or something that will occupy your time and perhaps make you more interesting (the statement was something like “bored people make for boring people”).
So all the talk about neediness somehow made me thing about work and contribution. If you don’t give someone a chance to contribute to a relationship then how can they feel engaged and a part of it. If you do everything for your child, how can they feel they are accomplishing anything. The old saying about teaching someone to fish rather than fishing for them to feed them for a day seems a good example of this.
What do we do with this knowledge? Well, give the kids something to do. In our post Christmas cleanup we had the kids helping. We gave them specific projects like sorting Lego’s (with several kits to build Star Wars vehicles and ships in various states of constructions and destruction, we have several thousand pieces strung about the table), help pack up decorations and so forth. With company coming and going over the Holidays the boys helped clean bathrooms and straighten up (their rooms and the common areas- we all live in the house together). Sure, there was some complaining but nothing ever escalated into an argument and expression is good for discussing what we are doing and why.
The same approach should be put into our daily lives and otherrelationships. Let people have to work a little to get your attention or to be involved. Don’t do everything for someone, whether co-worker, friend or spouse. It may seem like the helpful thing to do but it can be too much. If you don’t give them a chance to do things for themselves they see it as a strike against their independence. If you don’t give them a chance to do things for you then they can’t get involved. Not to say you should avoid doing things for others, not at all. But just be careful not to go overboard- find a good balance. It is actually easier with the kdis since it is easy to identify things they can’t or shouldn’t do for themselves (things that are dangerous for example) but perhaps the harder part is in our relationships with adults.
So, as usual, I have brought up a topic without precise answers of what to do about it. But that is where our discussion comes in, both here and on the podcast. I plan to discuss this on a future show so if you have some comments send them my way. You can post them here or send typed or audio comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org