As parents, most of us want to do whatever we can to set our children up with the best possible skills to be successful in life. We try to find activities that will keep them engaged while they are learning. However, we often question whether or not we should be completely hands-on with our children during these activities, hands-off, or somewhere in between.
Often, the child’s own unique skills and personality have an impact on which style we ultimately choose. Some children crave more hand-holding during activities while others prefer to be left to their own devices.
Regardless of which way we choose, there are pros and cons of both levels of involvement. There is certainly no right or wrong answer to this age-old parenting question so let's take a quick look at a few things we need to keep in mind.
The Pros and Cons of Hands-On Parenting During Activities
There are many benefits to hands-on parenting during activities. As a parent, you have years and years of experience that you can pass onto your children. When you take a hands-on approach when doing activities with your child, you can teach them the things that you have learned as well as insight as to how you analyze situations and create solutions to problems. You also have the opportunity to closely observe your child to help identify strengths as well as areas that need to be further developed. You can take action sooner and can help your kids enhance their strengths while building a strong foundation that addresses their developmental needs.
However, one major con is that it is easy for us to simply “feed” our child the answer to a question or solution to a problem when we are actively involved in the process. While this may make us feel like we have taught our child a new thing or skill and that we helped them (or simply just saved ourselves some time), this may negate the purpose of the activity. Activities are designed to help children develop both creative and critical thinking skills and there are steps that need to be followed in order for this to be achieved. When we give them the answers, we may inadvertently take that learning opportunity away from them.
The Pros & Cons of Hands-off Parenting During Activities
One of the best ways for children to learn is when they discover things for themselves. This could be learning how to build something new out of Legos or drawing a picture of a new animal that actually resembles the intended animal rather than a wonky dinosaur. When children learn on their own in a natural setting, they are often able to retain the information better and apply it to additional situations.
When parents remain hands-off during activities, children are not only discovering new things on their own, they are also taking "ownership" of their own learning and this can help develop a stronger sense of self and pride in children. This sense of self enables them to better understand their strengths and weaknesses and helps kids remain confident even in the face of adversity. They know what they are capable of achieving and even if there are a few little hiccups along the way, they have the confidence to keep trying different things until they finally figure out a solution to a problem.
However, there are also a few cons that come along with hands-off parenting. There may be a small risk that a parent may miss an underutilized skill that is lacking and needs to be developed. This could be something that only becomes evident when they try something out of their comfort zone and could be quickly remedied with a little guidance from the parent.
The child may also experience varying degrees of frustration and if they do not know how to control this, they may be unable to remain focused and their engagement levels may begin to drop. If left unchecked, this could cause a ripple effect that begins to impact other aspects of their education.
So what is the best option?
As mentioned earlier, the level of parental involvement that is needed during activities often comes down to the child themselves. While hands-on and hands-off approaches both have their own inherent pros and cons, these "cons" can be easily remedied by following a combined hands-on/hands-off approach to activities. When a child is first learning a new skill, it is important to be there to guide them if needed, and then as they gain confidence in their abilities, you can begin to give them more and more freedom to learn.
A great example of this can be in a skill like woodworking. At the start, it is important to show your kids how to use basic tools and teach them some fundamentals of woodworking (i.e. how to use a hammer and a nail). However, as they begin to understand how pieces of wood can be held together, cut, or sanded, you can begin to take a few steps back. As new skills are introduced, there may be a bit more hand-holding at the start but then the same gradual distancing will occur. By following a step-by-step approach, children know that they have support but still have the space needed to analyze, problem-solve, and use critical thinking skills to create something great.
There are pros and cons of both parental involvement levels when it comes to doing activities but it is important to remember that ultimately, as long as you are doing what you think is best for your child, you are making the right decision.
At The Handwork Studio, we specialize in hands-on learning to encourage children to learn by making. Our instructors are passionate about helping children gain the skills and confidence to create something extraordinary and our summer camp programs provide a great base for learning throughout the year.
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