After viewing our interview with Jean Liedloff a parent said, ‘Jean talks about the effects of over protective parenting. I am so guilty of this. My son is much more capable when he is on his own than when he knows I am looking. I am wondering how I could undo this?

Great question, join the club.

As Jean pointed out in the swimming pool example, when the child does not know the parent was looking, the child demonstrated their true capacity. When the child feels a parent is watching – they express the adult’s helpless expectations. And this pattern is established very early. It becomes a reflex.

The guiding principal is to ‘assume competence’ from the beginning. Then the child’s innate capacity and the adult’s expectation are in sync instead of being in conflict. Imaging what this means lifelong!

The child turns to the adult moment to moment to ‘read’ their relationship to whatever is happening – assuming that the adult’s behavior is intelligent and appropriate. Big assumption here but what else is the child to do?
The adult serves as the child’s compass in uncharted territory. As the child develops the compass must adapt to the needs of what remains unknown to the child. The adult must fine tune his or her emphasis to match the developmental needs of each child. One shoe definitely does not fit all.

A compass is not a ‘teacher.’ Modeling is not ‘teaching’ nor is it ‘instruction.’ 90% or more of what a child learns lifelong is through modeling. 5% of lifelong learning is through instruction.

Your challenge is to ‘assume competence’ and model it in your relationship with the child, guiding them with very brief moments of mostly nonverbal encouragement and facilitation only when asked for or needed. Avoid doing for the child things they can do for themselves. Facilitate when appropriate their wonder and experimentation. Leave praise on the shelf. Of course they produce excellent results. That is what nature expects by design.
As always, the change that is needed must come from you.

Don’t worry. Celebrate every moment of your life and so will your child.

Michael Mendizza