All day, every day, the struggles your kids face are real. And you can bet they will let you know about those said struggles. Maybe they can't figure out a homework problem. Or how to place the correct arm into the correct armhole of a jacket. Or maybe the moat of their LEGO palace does not look like the picture, and therefore it's all wrong, all of it.
Photo: Ana Lukascuk (Getty Images)
In defeat, they will declare:
I can't dooooo it!
It's not working!
I need help!
Your parental instinct will probably be to swoop in and fix the problem. That's your job, right?
Instead, wait. Seventeen seconds. This is the specific amount of time Alissa Marquess recommends in her new book Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, which is out this month.
Why 17 seconds? Marquess, a mum of three, learned that the average person doesn't go more than 17 seconds before interrupting a person talking, so as an experiment, she tried counting to 17 in her head before speaking her thoughts in conversations with her family.
She found out she was a frequent interrupter - her husband and kids had so much more to say and contribute when they weren't cut off all the time. So she decided to also try using 17 seconds as a waiting time whenever she saw one of her kids struggle.
Why wait? Providing that buffer gives kids the crucial opportunity to push beyond that feeling of frustration. As Marquess explains, you must "allow them the possibility of their own victory".
In those 17 seconds, your kid might be thinking, "I need help! I SAID HEEEELP! Anybody? OK, why is nobody rescuing me? What else can I do? What can I change? How about I try this solution? Oh hey, it works! I did that on my own." Maybe it won't play out this way every time, but the situations when it does will be powerful.
Try it. If your toddler is getting increasingly frustrated trying to insert the cylinder block into the star-shaped opening, wait 17 seconds. If your preschooler cannot get herself down from the top of the climbing structure (and does not look like she's in immediate danger), count to 17. If your primary schooler cannot figure out the lily pad problem and wants to give up, remember, "One... Two... Three..."
Waiting is hard. Rescuing is easy. But for your kids to see how capable they are, they need the chance to be their own heroes, not a mum or dad who's constantly saving them.