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MEET THE EXPERT
New York based pediatrician and mother of Sophie and Charlie, Dr. Alanna Levine has appeared on TV and in print, speaking about breaking medical news and common parenting topics.
Why is learning to do things for yourself so important?
Having the confidence to believe you can do something is critical to becoming a successful adult. It is what will allow you to take risks and stretch outside of your comfort zone. And, doesn’t it feel great to accomplish something on your own?
You recommend teaching your children early on. Can you give us an example of how you can begin even with young children?
By 6 months, most babies will try to get objects or toys that are out of reach. If you notice that your child wants something, encourage her to reach for it and retrieve it. If you simply hand it to her, she is missing out on the opportunity to learn that she can do it. Next time, she will be more likely to wait for you to give it to her than reach for it herself. She also misses out on the delight of figuring out that she has the skills needed to get what she wants.
What do you tell parents who worry they lack patience and are tempted to give up?
I advise parents to try with one small task and see how it goes. The outcome will likely encourage them to continue to apply the techniques to other areas of the child’s life.
How does learning to be self-reliant help your child as they grow older?
Nobody knows how to do everything. Learning at an early age that you have the skills to seek and acquire new information, and that you have the patience to keep trying until you succeed will help children grow into confident capable adolescents and young adults.
If you could only give parents one piece of advice to raise a confident child, what would it be?