Junior Zap is at the beach, building a sandcastle with his pail and shovel. Dad joins in - and takes over. He builds a sandcastle, too, only it is much fancier than Junior Zap's. Junior, frustrated that his castle isn't as good as Dad's, knocks his own down. Seeing this, Dad realizes what he has done and knocks his down, too. He gives the pail to Junior Zap and together they build a new sandcastle, with Junior taking the lead.
You must resist the impulse to take over your child's play and make it "better." Doing so undermines the child's confidence in himself, and makes him feel as if his work isn't worthy of your appreciation. It is important to your child's self-esteem and independence that he take the lead in play, deciding what to do. You should ask your child if you can play, and what he wants you to do. Imitating your child's play (like building the same sort of castle) is a good way to join in. It tells him you think his ideas are so good, you want to do them too.
It's important that your child be given lots of opportunity to play - alone, with brothers and sisters, other children, and with you. When your child plays, she is practising skills in every area of her development. She thinks, solves problems, talks, moves, cooperates and makes moral judgments. Play is helping to get her ready for the real world.
Your expectations should reflect your child's development. Setting expectations that are too high can leave both of you feeling frustrated and your child's sense of self-esteem is prevented from flourishing.
Negative messages to a child can lead to negative self-esteem. The development of self-esteem is prevented or damaged when parents ridicule their children, make them feel ashamed, punish them for unsuccessful attempts, or expect perfection or constant success. Dad didn't ridicule Junior's sandcastle, but by building one that was so much better he made Junior feel his wasn't very good. Praise and encourage attempts to try new things and to deal with frustrating situations.
Food for Thought:
- It's hard not to show off in front of your child - you want to impress him. When might this sort of thing be acceptable? And when would it be destructive for the child?
- How do I know when I should play with my child? How do I get involved without taking over?