Do you remember what it was like to have just gotten your license and drive a car without your parents? For me, I felt so grown up… like I just cut off the strings of parent dependency! However, that feeling came to an abrupt halt as I found myself confused staring at the gas pump. One minor problem… I didn’t know how to pump gas! In a frantic teenage girl moment, I sobbed to my dad as he gave me instructions over the phone. No one had ever told me that you had to lift the metal lever up for the gas to come out! As simple as that moment may seem, what a difference that day would have been if I could have hopped out of the car and confidently pumped my own gas without the tears and embarrassment.
As parents how do we create teaching moments such as these for our children before they are out of our home? When should we start? How should we start?
It’s SPRING CLEANING season and the answer is NOW and in the home!
Here are 6 ideas on how to get started today.
1. ORGANIZE YOURSELF FIRST:
I don’t know about you but I have a touch of ADD when it comes to housework. Let’s just say, it is not on my “Top Favorite Things List.” But in order to teach my children the value of hard work and independence I have to give them the consistent opportunity to serve in the home. Plus, why should I have to bare the burden alone? Don’t I want to teach my children about working together as a team?
This is what I have found helpful in our home and how I created our job lists. First, I made a list of all the things that had to happen in the home to keep it clean and functioning. Then, I divided it up between weekly, quarterly, and yearly items. Then, I put them on magnetic strips to divide out to the members of our family- yes, that includes my three-year-old.
You can download the entire list right here.
I found these small metal clipboards at a craft store for 50% off along with paper! Yay- I just love a deal!
Then, I glued the paper and added a letter of the name of each person to identify and personalize each clipboard.
There you have it.
Our daily charts.
I know what you are thinking- what do do with all the additional magnetic word strips? I just grabbed sheets of metal (only 99 cents each!) and two sided tape from Home Depot and adhered it to the inside of my cabinet close to where the charts are hanging.
Oh I forgot to mention- I created visual images for my three-year-old since he can’t read quite yet. You can download those images here.
2. PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR
Now, that you have figured out your system for your family- it’s time to put it on the calendar. Come up with a great big list of all the things you want your child to know how to do before they leave the home. Then figure out at what age you want to introduce them to your child and when it will take place. I recommend doing training during the summer or on the weekends when kids are not busy with school. Plus, what a great Summer boredom buster right? Then, mark it on your calendar to schedule enough time for the training to take place.
3. TAKE THE TIME TO TEACH:
Did you know it takes an average child 8 training sessions to teach a child a task? So, how do we expect them to know how to do something if we don’t teach them how? In the short run this will be a little (or a lot) time consuming… we all know that a job that usually takes 5 minutes for us will take your child twice as long! But remember in the long run it will eventually pay off when they are able to do things without your assistance.
4. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOUR CHILD:
Sometimes we just assume that our children are too young to do a task. But have you noticed that many teenagers these days are doing just about as much work as a two-year-old? Could it be because we never gave them the opportunity to do small tasks while they were little. Constantly find ways to stretch your children beyond what you think and they think they can do. They will surprise you. Once they have mastered their tasks, don’t be afraid to keep adding to their list. They will learn how and appreciate how capable they really are.
My child was struggling to lift this recycle bag full of paper. I reached out to help assuming it was just too heavy for him, but he was determined to do it himself. It took all my restraint not to hop in there and rescue his attempt while he was struggling to get it up over the bin. But my patience paid off. He finally was able to do it and was extremely proud of his hard work and determination.
So was I.
5. ALLOW THEM TO MAKE MISTAKES :
Remember, we would so much rather have them learn those lessons early on in a safe environment like the home. So, mistakes are good. Point out the positive things that you see your child doing well and refrain from criticizing or overly critiquing their work. Refrain yourself from redoing their work later! I know we all feel like doing that at one time or other! But remember, that is only sending the message to them that they are not capable of doing quality work if we are remaking their bed when they go to school. If they need to improve in a certain area, just consider that they need a little MORE training time and make the time to teach them in a loving and patient environment with plenty of encouragement.
Since my son was two he has loved to help with the baking. He didn’t always make it into the bowl or crack an egg with out the shells falling in. But I must say through practice he is now able to help without making such a mess. And he love to do it! My plan is to prepare him to be able to know how to prepare meals all by himself for the family before he reaches his teens. I have to start somewhere right?
6. MOVE OUT OF THE WAY:
Once your training period is over and your child knows how to do the task- BACK AWAY! Hovering over your child is also sending the message that you don’t trust them or they aren’t capable of doing quality work.
One thing I have done in my home when they are just beginning to learn how to do self-help skills is to create a visual check list for them to check off in the morning and at night. It is on a clipboard with velcro images underneath the to do list. I purposely place it at eye level so they can see it and do it on their own. Find out more and download the images here.
So, parents (and grandparents)- my final thoughts are the words of Dorothy Briggs, author of Your Child’s Self-Esteem, “In successful parenting, you literally try to work yourself out of a job.” – it is time to step out of the way and allow your children the opportunity to learn! Take this time with spring cleaning and summer to teach your child that they can in fact do hard things and feel excited about doing it!