What you can do yourself, you should do yourself

Who doesn’t want to raise their children to be able to stand on their own two feet and to have self-confidence and self-worth? Sometimes it can be a good idea to put the hectic everyday life on pause and see if there is anything, we as parents can do differently.

LEGO® Wear had the pleasure of interviewing Nicolai Moltke-Leth, who gives us his best parenting advice. Nicolai Moltke-Leth is a former special forces soldier. Today he works as a keynote speaker, author and motivator, focusing on how to raise our children to become self-confident, caring and to ‘carry themselves’. He has participated in the Danish TV programme ‘Raise a winner’ that gave parents inspiration, tips and tricks for raising children.

Why do you think it’s important that children become independent?

I have a mantra and a mission: that children - and adults too - must learn how ‘to carry themselves’. Life is unpredictable, and it is important that you are able, and possess the tools, to handle all these unpredictabilities yourself - without being knocked down. In order to carry yourself, your inner motivation is essential, and these three points are important to teach your children:

1. Autonomy and self-determination

It is extremely important to give the child a choice, which will give him or her a sense of self-determination. Some things are not up for discussion of course, such as whether or not to put on a snowsuit in winter. But you can, for example, give the child the choice if he or she wants to start with the left or the right leg.

2. Mastering

Learning to clear the road for small stones on their own gives the child small victories and experiences of success. A lot of the times, children want to do things themselves, and they should be allowed to do the things that they actually master, such as putting on clothes themselves. And as parents, it’s important to take the time and allow them to do it. At every age, children master different things, and with small victories, they are slowly able to clear the road for larger stones as they grow older.

3. Relatedness - or connectedness

Humans are not made to do things on our own. We are gregarious animals, and we have a natural, inherent fear of not being good enough. We are created to survive in a group, but at the same time it is important to teach your children to stand on their own two feet, to get to know themselves and their own limits and thereby become well-balanced.

What is your opinion about this time in age, when parents are considered to be overly protective ‘helicopter parents’? And what does this do to our children?

I think that you deprive the children of an opportunity to find their inner beliefs and the experience of mastering a task if they are not allowed to make a choice if good-intended parents ease their way too much. They are not allowed to experience first-hand what it means to clear the small stones out of the way, thereby gaining small victories and successes. And when one is not allowed to handle the small stones, larger stones may suddenly knock you down later in life. And that can be hard on both the self-confidence and self-worth.

How do you as a parent teach your child to be independent?

What you can do yourself, you should do yourself! This is a simple phrase that really pretty much sums up what to keep in mind as a parent – as it gives the children the experience that they are able to master different tasks. The children get a choice, and they get the ability to make decisions based on our choices.
An example of a choice could be that the child should tidy up in his or her room.

“Do you want to do it now or after dinner?” This way, you give the child an opportunity to choose. The goal is the same, but the way you get to the goal and the child’s experience is very different. You help the child make a decision, and afterwards this will give the child a sense of mastering. It’s small opportunities like this one that you meet in your everyday life, you as a parent should seize. Let the children contribute to the daily life. And give the child the experience of having a choice.

At what age can you start doing this? And how do you get started?

As an inspiration, my good colleague, Sofie Mønster, who is the founder of Nordic Parenting NOPA, has made an overview of what to do and how to help at the different ages.  

2-3 years

  • Put laundry in the laundry basket / machine
  • Tidy up their toys
  • Give the dog / cat food
  • Carry the cup / plate to the table
  • Find items in the supermarket
  • Carry their own bag
  • Hang up their jacket and place their shoes nicely
  • Put clothes in the closet

4-7 years

  • Set the table and clean up afterwards
  • Empty / fill the dishwasher
  • Tidy up in their own room
  • Make their bed
  • Water plants or help with other tasks in the garden
  • Find items in the supermarket, carry light items (e.g. toilet paper) and help put the items in their proper place at home
  • Hang up laundry to dry
  • Pack their bag for kindergarten / school
  • Carry their bag to and from kindergarten / school

8-10 years

  • Tidy up their room
  • Cleaning e.g. vacuuming
  • Make dinner once a week
  • Walk the dog
  • Take out the garbage
  • Empty the mailbox
  • Help with the grocery shopping
  • Put the groceries away at home
  • Fold laundry and put it in the closet
  • Help make lunch bags

Do you have 3 good pieces of advice to parents in 2018?

Three simple tips I would like to pass on are:

- See and take your children seriously and meet them at eye level, both in relation to their feelings, but also in relation to how they experience things.

- Fill your children up with love.
Dr. Gary Chapman has described five different love languages, which in brief are:

1. Appreciative words
2. Quality time
3. Gifts (not to be confused with rewards)
4. Services
5. Physical contact

- Make clear demands and expectations and align the consequences in advance

Talk to your child about what the consequences should be for repeated issues. In this way they are also involved in what the consequences of their actions are. It’s much easier to do this in advance than when you are in the middle of a conflict. “My darling, I love you but unfortunately now there are consequences because you did not do what we agreed.” Remember to connect love with consistency.

So, in conclusion - give the children HUNGER for more, give them the experience of FREEDOM that is closely linked to INDEPENDENCE. Children are social, but they must be made aware that they can make their OWN decisions, and that it’s all right.

Good luck to you!