In today’s world, we are faced with an overload of information as we try to navigate our way armed with google, our own ideas, and advice from friends, family, and strangers. It is no wonder parents are always wishing that our children came with a parenting manual. In this short article, we look at small things we, as parents, can do at home to support our children’s development.
When we embark on any journey involving children, we need to ensure we have two things in our bags: patience (patience when dealing and engaging with children, and patience with their milestones) and an understanding that when it comes to children, things will never be “perfect”.
In our quest to be good parents, we believe that the more we do for our children the better parents we are. But in fact, every time we do something for our child that he/she is capable of doing for themselves we send a message that they are incapable. When children are able to do things for themselves (and allowed to do it), their belief in themselves is reinforced. The first key to achieving self-esteem is independence.
So let’s start with the small things we can do to make a difference:
1. Let them make up their own beds. Yes, it will be crooked, but it is the effort and the enthusiasm with which the child does it that counts. Instead of pointing out the crookedness, next time say to the child, “let’s do it together”. Model, without words, how it should be done, and through repeatedly making the bed, the child will perfect the skill.
2. Allow children to choose their own outfits. If this is hard for you, let them choose between 2 outfits. Do this in the evening or afternoon before school.
3. Let them dress independently even if they are slow (wake up early to accommodate the time it takes them to complete the task independently)
4. Let them make their own cereal (you may need to assist with hot milk), and let them eat by themselves – if they mess, show them how to clean up. “Mess is best”!
5. Always let children clean up after themselves. This will not be done perfectly in the beginning, but it is a skill that they will learn. (You can clean it again after – provided the child does not see you!)
6. Allow children to pack their own bags for school (spare outfits) and to carry their own bags into the school.
7. Children are able to assist with setting the table; clearing the table (or at least pick up their own plates, put condiments in the fridge, etc). Let them assist with washing dishes or packing the dishwasher.
8. Children should sort their clothes and put dirty clothes in the laundry basket, clean clothes in the cupboard, etc. Children can also help with folding laundry that comes off the washing line, matching socks, sorting clothes into types (t-shirts, pants, etc) or people – mom’s clothes, my clothes, etc.
By getting our children involved in household chores, we are not only encouraging their independence, but we are setting them on the road to developing good self-esteem. The benefits have a ripple effect in the home – easing the load of busy parents and making “suicide hour” so much more manageable. Reading that compulsory bedtime story each night easily becomes a reality. With children dressing themselves (in an outfit they chose the night before), school bags packed and helping themselves to breakfast, parents will soon be saying “Morning Rush Hour? What on earth is that?”
*This article first appeared in the Simply Montessori Newsletter in February 2015.