Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Establishing Independence in Children

 As a mother of four, I at times felt overwhelmed by my to do list.  The errands that needed to be run, the cleaning that needed to be done.  The registration documents, medical forms, calendars and schedules that needed to be read, understood and filled out.  Add a job into the mix, and a boss with requests and due dates, and oh, by the way, a husband who I wanted to maintain a relationship with.  And did I mention, I needed a haircut from time to time?  You get my drift.  We parents are busy people!  So what do you do when juggling everything feels impossible.  My advice is simple...look down.

Look down?  What does that mean?  It means that the answer is simple.  Look down at your children.  The two legged, two handed, little people that inhabit your life are fully capable of helping you tow the line.  And in this instance, you will be doing them a favor by asking...but not in the moment (in the long run)!  The secret is to remember to do this.  Most parents get so caught up in the business and superhuman model of running the show, that they forget to ask their children to step up and do things that they are fully capable of doing.  And if you are stressed out, chances are you are taking it out on your family, and they all will be a lot happier seeing your stress decline when you feel as if you have your bases covered.  So share tasks with every member of your family.  Look for age appropriate ways that each of your children can contribute to your household.

Little ones can help set the table, care for a pet, or clear shoes from the hallway.

Older kids can make beds, learn to do laundry, empty dishwashers, sweep floors, and even clean toilets.

Teens can cook or shop or fold laundry, virtually anything that you take the time to teach them to do.

If we, as parents don't expect any of this from our children, the result is that our children cannot do anything for themselves.  Yesterday, I sent my 16 year old daughter to high school registration.  She recently received her driver's license and will be a junior in high school this year. I allowed her to drive herself to the school and complete the registration process on her own.  When she came home, she reported to me that most of the teens were accompanied by their parents to complete this task.  I kept thinking that in light of the fact that in two short years she will be navigating a college campus, she should be able to navigate her way through high school registration as preparation for what is to come.

For some reason, our generation has such a difficult time letting our children fend for themselves.  We hover over them and manage their every move and then wonder why they are clueless when they reach their late teens and twenties.  So I urge you.  Slow down and think about what your children do to contribute to your household.  What chores do they perform on a regular basis?  How do you push them to develop new skills, like speaking on the phone to order a pizza or walking into a store and making a purchase?  Good parenting is loving our kids enough to put them to work and teaching them to survive when we are not around.

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