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5 year old doesn't want to do things for himself

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Dr. Laura,

In your book you discuss how many/most children love to master things. My son is 5 and though at times he wants to do things for himself or learn new things, many times he would prefer Mommy to do it for him like learning to pour his own cereal or zip up his coat. Any tips or suggestions for turning on his excitement for wanting to do things himself?   

Thank you!


I guess first we need to figure out what's dampening his pleasure in discovery and mastery. 

Does he think he has to do it perfectly? Or maybe he worries that if he zips his own coat it's a step away from you, and he'll get less caretaking?

 I would experiment to see if you can understand more about what's going on. So, for instance, be sure that you dote on him and cuddle and coddle. If he feels he gets more than enough caretaking, he might be happy to initiate zipping his coat. In the meantime, when he says "I can't do do it for me..." you can do it for him very lovingly, saying "I am ALWAYS happy to help you when you need it. I know when you are ready, you'll want to try zipping it yourself." 

It will be interesting to see how he answers. He might say "I can't do it...I do it wrong...It gets stuck." In that case, he has a case of perfectionism. You can answer "Zippers are hard...Let's work together. Here, you hold this piece....I'll slip this piece in here...Now, can you grab that pull and pull it up? Hey, it's going! Let me help you pull it straight so it doesn't get stuck." He learns from this that you understand it's a learning process, and you're willing to help, and that it's okay not to know how to do something, and to make mistakes. 

Good luck!
Dr. Laura

Thank you so much for such a thorough answer. I really appreciate this! 

I think for my son it is a bit of both. He gets frustrated when he can't do things right away and he also has made comments that he wishes not to grow up (he fears having to give up a turtle he sucks if he gets older for example). Of course I reassure him that he can keep the turtle as long he needs or wants to but maybe he still harbors fears. 

I will combine your suggestions to fit the moment, using both the doting and the collaboration responses and see how it goes! Thank you so much!

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