My parenting mantra?  Sit on your hands.

If you could hear inside my head you would hear the mantra repeated over and over.

Sit on your hands.  She’s doing fine.

Sit on your hands.  You already know how to sew.

Sit on your hands.  She is feeding herself and who cares if there is applesauce in her eyebrows?

It takes literal physical restraint for me to let my daughter do it herself sometimes. I see her struggling and I just want to reach out and help her, to get her past the hard part, to do it for her, but I don’t.  My hands start to move from my side toward her and I stop them.  It is the hardest, most important parenting lesson I teach myself over and over: she will only learn to do it for herself if I stay out of her way.


Friday night she decided she wanted to learn how to knit, again.  This will be the third time I have taught her.  Each time I have knit to show her, then sat behind her and knit with her hands over mine, then sat on my hands and let her knit, and by knit I mean drop stitches, make stitches with an accidental yarn over, created twisted stitches, knit the same stitch twice and finally give up in frustration.  So we put the knitting away for another time.

This time we started the same way, but at the end of the night when she had eight stitches, instead of the twelve I cast on, and a couple of large holes in her work, she didn’t get frustrated.  She just said, “That’s okay.  This one is just practice.”

Then she put her work down, kissed it, and said “I’ll see you in the morning knitting!”

I didn’t pick it up for her.  I did not go back and fix the mistakes.  I walked past the five rows on her needles and saw what I might be able to teach her to make her work better but I did not do it for her.  I sat on my hands, because I already know how to knit.

Saturday she picked it up again.  Now she has three holes and fifteen stitches, but five inches of something that looks like knitting.  She’s so proud.  She wants to take it to our friend’s house today, because that mom is a knitter too, and she wants to show off.


We hauled out my first knitting project, a lovely burnt orange…thing, and looked at my holes and my wonky first attempts next to hers and talked about why they were different and how they were the same.  As she watches me finish my first adult size sweater she understands that I started, twelve years ago, with something that looks just like what she’s making now.

“Mom, you’ve only been knitting for twelve years.  If I start now, imagine how good I’ll be when I’m your age!”

It’s true, but she’ll only get that good if she does it for herself and I keep sitting on my hands.

16 thoughts on “My parenting mantra?  Sit on your hands.

  1. I love, love, love this post. It made me cry. Crazy, I know. But knowing when to save your children and when to let them fail is a beautiful thing. And though we parents don’t always get it right every time, this is a perfect example of why and how it works. Bravo, Mrs. Afthead! And bravo to the future knitter extraordinaire!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It’s been quite the process of watching her fits and starts take shape into a skill. I may have to glue my hands to my sides if sitting doesn’t work. It’s so hard sometimes! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. It is so hard, and I know knitting is the least of it, but I have to keep reminding myself over and over because the desire to jump in and help is overwhelming as a parent. Thanks for the comment! Off to go see what’s new on your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Erin Framke

    Loved this post! I really need to work on sitting on my hands more. We have to let our children try and fail in order for them to learn how to do things for themselves and to feel the pride that comes with overcoming adversity on your own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I love that you commented. Now you get to watch for those times when I am literally sitting on my hands, because it happens! So difficult to watch the kiddos struggle.

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  3. Love this! Yes, I have learned to walk away and not watch my son do things. It’s hard too because sometimes they know how to do things differently. Makes you realize teaching really is a gift! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A very belated comment to thank you for another option: walk away and not watch her. Sometimes sitting on my hands isn’t enough because I can’t keep my mouth quiet. It’s a good thought to just let her do it by herself if I really NEED to help, because I don’t really NEED to help. Thanks for your comment and your perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good job, Johanna! Follow your instincts. When a parent does a project or steps in without letting a child make mistakes, the underlying message sent to the child is this:” I am smarter than you and can do this so much better!” It sucks the confidence right out of a kid. Not good in the long run.

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    1. Sometimes I think I need to move from sitting on my hands to duct tape to keep my hands still, because I agree with you wholeheartedly! Thank you for your perspective. I am not smarter than her, and she deserves to develop the experience I have so she can become amazing!

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      1. Oh, there is no doubt in my mind she will be. It is those subliminal messages we don’t even know we are sending out with our actions, that silently say so much. You are a very smart and wise Mama, as ZuZu would say.

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  5. Reblogged this on Afthead and commented:

    As the years progress I still think sitting on my hands is my best parenting path. I share this post with you again today in honor of all the moms out there who find their own method for raising their own children in the very best way they know how. Thanks for all the time you’ve sacrificed, prioritized and invested in your kiddos. Happy Mother’s Day!
    ***

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