Help Your Child Be Independent and Improve Self - esteem | Richmond VA Newborn Photographer


Parenting Tips

Two of the biggest struggles I’ve faced in my life is over coming shyness and finding confidence in myself. I’ve learned over the years that the two go hand in hand. Some may call me an introvert and I do exhibit many of the characteristics, but one could also argue that I am an extrovert. I’ve never been one for labels, so I’m not really too concerned about figuring it out! 

When I look back on my childhood and situations where I would feel the most “shy” was when I was in a situation where I did not feel in control. I’ve analyzed this a lot (probably a little too much, but that’s who I am). What caused me to retreat inside myself was the feeling that I wasn’t good enough or that I would make a fool of myself. I was afraid to talk to new people because I feared they would think I was weird. I refused to try new things because the thought of looking foolish was too much to bear. As I grew older things got worse and fear became my best friend.  In high school I asked my mom to find me a counselor because I was tired of being shy and awkward. This was the beginning of a 20 year journey to rebuild myself. I could go into depth on how I did this, but I’ll save that for another post ;)

 This post is actually about a really cool product that allows my 3-year-old to reach our light switch all by himself without having to use a stool! Confused? At this point you’re thinking, “ok, she really is weird!” Allow me to explain…

I mentioned I’ve always been an analytical person. I believe that in order to fix a problem you have to understand the root of it.  This side of me became much more prominent when I had my first son. I was even more determined to work on self-improvement because I wanted to be the kind of role model that was outgoing, confident and faced my fears head on. I didn’t want my kids to go through the same pain and struggles I faced in life as a shy and insecure person. This was no easy task and I’m by no means finished with my journey nor will I ever be, but I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I’ve started. In fact, when I tell people I was extremely shy and still can be at times they often don’t believe me. 

Imagine my surprise when my oldest, at around 3, started displaying signs of shyness. I understand that it is not uncommon for many kids to start feeling different anxieties at around this age and will eventually grow out of it, so I held on tight trying not to project my own insecurities onto him. Well, he wasn’t growing out of it, in fact it was indeed getting worse! Oh no! It must be genetic, I’ve worked so hard and now I’ve passed it onto my son anyway!! It was really difficult for me to know what to do to help him because watching him go through this hit way too close to home. Although he was comfortable at daycare in a familiar setting, when he went to birthday parties he refused to participate and acted terrified of all of his friends. I had no idea what to do. This went on for a few years and when I realized he wasn’t “growing out of it” my husband and I were at a loss on how to help. We searched for a professional and found the most amazing woman! Her name is Tracy Whitaker aka “Miss Tracy”. She is a play therapist at Heart Tree Arts and she changed our lives! Again, I could write an entire blog post about Miss Tracy, but what I want to share with you all is something she taught us that turned things around for our family.

I’ve always encouraged independence with my kids (or so I thought), but when Miss Tracy questioned us about this it was revealed that we were actually doing a lot for Brennan that he was quite capable of doing for himself. Things that I really didn’t think he could do at his age or rather I didn’t have time to let him figure them out.  When I was teaching full time we needed to be out the door by 6:45 am and admittedly it was easier for me to pick out his clothes, get him dressed, put the toothpaste on his toothbrush, wipe his behind and anything else that would be a battle and make us late. I did all of this until he was 5! Miss Tracy explained to us the importance of promoting independence at a young age and these accomplishments make kids feel really good about themselves and are huge self-esteem builders. It seems so simple now, but when your in the trenches it’s hard to do anything but survive. That day we went home and started letting my son pick out his own clothes (that was probably the toughest thing because I sent him to school in some pretty crazy outfits) and learned that after a couple days of fighting (because the royal life was over) that he actually could dress himself, squeeze the toothpaste (making it onto the toothbrush) among many other things, quite well. With this new approach to parenting and Miss Tracy’s amazing work with my son he as come a long way! His journey is not over, but I know now he is going to be just fine. 

Grady is now 3 and we need to be careful not to fall into the same trap as we did with Brennan (I’m not gonna lie it’s been a struggle). We need to let him be independent and right now he is fighting it with all of his might. One big struggle we were facing was having him go to the bathroom by himself. He always has to have someone go with him. I tried everything, but in the end he always won.  His excuse was that he could not turn on the light. I couldn’t really argue that because he’s short and he can’t reach the light. I showed him how to move the stool to reach then back to the sink to wash his hands (our bathroom downstairs is too small for two stools).  He wasn’t a fan of this and I was out of ideas and feeling defeated. 

Then one day I was recording a song I wrote for Brennan at my friend Kevin Beal’s in home recording studio when I saw a really cool light switch extender that allowed his kids to independently reach the light.  It was genius!! How did it not occur to me before to search the all knowing world wide web for something like this?!  I immediately ordered a 3 pack light switch extender from Amazon for $20.  So now he can also turn on his bedroom light and the bathroom upstairs!! It also comes with a variety of stickers that they can choose to put on to really make it their own!  He was very excited and I thought for sure this had solved our problem, but it did not. He was so used to someone going with him that he was not ready to give it up light switch extender or not! I had to think of something else.  I was used to developing behavior plans for middle school students when I taught students with behavioral issues, so I put myself in teacher mode and started brainstorming. What I came up with has worked not just for little Grady,  but for my oldest as well. 

I went to the Dollar Tree and found charts with stickers. I also let the kids come and pick out some prizes.  For $25 I had a plan. We call it the "All By Myself Chart". Every time they do something independently they get a sticker. Once they fill a chart they get to pick from the prize bag. Obviously since Brennan is almost 7 and Grady is only 3 the things they get stickers for look much different and while Grady is just happy getting his sticker Brennan is on a mission to fill his chart to get to the prize.  Now the light switch extender in combination with the chart Grady is now using the bathroom "all by himself" as well as getting himself dressed! 

 I keep it on the bottom half of the refrigerator so they both can reach it and add the stickers "all by themselves"! Brennan has already filled a chart and on his second! 

I keep it on the bottom half of the refrigerator so they both can reach it and add the stickers "all by themselves"! Brennan has already filled a chart and on his second! 

If you have any favorite items or parenting tips I’d love to hear them!