When I was learning Child Development in High School and College I learned that if you don’t let a child do things for himself, he will never learn. I listened and agreed, but then I started teaching preschool. I was young and impatient and when the kids were doing a hard puzzle, I’d help them twist the pieces so they would fit. Maybe it’s my perfectionism, maybe it’s impatience, but it definitely was not helping the child. The head teacher reminded me that they needed to to it themselves in order to learn.
Now this seems like such a simple thing, but it really stuck with me.
When I had my own children, I understood that they needed to learn how to do things for themselves.
It’s such a hard thing as a parent. Watching a child struggle to get something done. Like when they are putting on their shoes and insist that “THEY CAN DO IT THEMSELVES”. This is when I want to pull my hair out. Or when they are loading the dishwasher and putting everything in the wrong way. It’s so tempting to just do it yourself. But what will your child learn if you are doing everything for them? You’re right. NOTHING.
Don’t get me wrong. I do plenty of things for my kids.
(More than I should according to my husband). I love doing things for my kids. Acts of Service is my Love Language. (BTW If you haven’t read The 5 Love Languages, DO IT NOW. It will strengthen your marriage and your relationships with your children. There is a book for marriages, teens and kids.) So I feel like when I do things for others, like pick up after them, do their chores for them, run things to the school for them, that I’m showing them love. Because of that, I’m not as strict about the kids doing things for themselves as my husband is, but I’ve learned that if I do everything for them, I’ll get walked all over. My kids will take advantage of me. (Can you tell that I have teenagers? Ha Ha!)
There is a process to independence in children. Of course they need to be old enough to understand and be physically capable of doing certain things. You would never ask your 2 year old to make themselves a sandwich. So when do you know that your child is old enough to do something?
I’ve created a free printable list for you know when it’s time to start to teach your child to do certain things for themselves and around the house.
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This detailed list breaks down capabilities into age groups so you know when your child may be able to do a certain job. Keep in mind though, that every child is different and develops at a different pace than others. So your child may be ready to load the dishes at age 5 or you might have to wait until they are 7. Other kids might be ready to load the dishwasher at 4.
The goal here is to get them to learn how to be independent.
Think about your child’s future:
- When they are in college, do we want their college room mates to have to clean up after them and pick up their wet towels from the ground?
- Do we want our children to fail college courses because they couldn’t remember to bring their homework with them to school?
- When they get married do we want our boys to help their wives out with the housework? Do we want our son’s wives to be picking up our son’s socks from off the floor?
- When they get a job, do we want their bosses to keep them around because they know they can rely on them?
We are raising the future generation of adults. We want them to take responsibility for their own actions. We want them to understand that mom and dad won’t always be there to pick up their socks or bring the PE clothes they forgot to school. And we definitely don’t want their future room mates, friends and spouses to take over our role of enabler.
The hardest thing for you will be to stand back and watch it all happen. To not pick up after them when they make a mess. To wait patiently as they learn to do it the right way. So I have some steps for you to follow as you go through this process over and over again as your child grows.
I love to read my children books about things we are learning. These 4 books are great for teaching your kids about cleaning up.
How To Teach Your Children to Do Things On Their Own:
If your child has never cleaned a toilet before, you can’t just hand them the cleaning supplies and tell them to go and clean the toilet. You have to take the time to teach them how to do it the right way. So following these steps will help the child really learn the right way.
1. Introduce a new job. Go with the child to the cleaning cupboard and show them the items they will need for the job they are doing. Be sure to have all the correct cleaning supplies in a little caddy for them to make it easier. **Make sure that the cleaning products you are having your child clean with are safe for their age. Don’t give Lime Away or something strong like that to young children. Save those types of deep cleaning jobs for the teenage years.**
2. Use a checklist for your kids. I LOVE checklists and flip charts for chores in my home. I have certain ones for the younger kids who can’t read that use pictures and checklists for the older kids who can read. If you have these checklists there is no excuse if your child didn’t do something. Each week on our “Deep Cleaning Day” when my kids come up to me to tell me they are done with their jobs , all I have to say is “Did you do everything on the checklist the way I showed you and with the correct tools?” Then it’s either a No or a Yes. Usually it’s a no a few times before I get a yes from them. If you would like to print your own chore cards, click on the images below.
3. Teach them how to do it right. It will take you at least 3 times (so if you do your deep cleaning chores once a week, 3 weeks) to teach your kids how to do the chore correctly. So if it’s your kids turn to clean the bathroom, you will need to go in with them and let them see how you do the job correctly. I’ll break it down even more for you.
- 1st time, you do the job so they can see it done the right way
- 2nd time, you start each scrub job and they finish the scrub job.
- 3rd time, you supervise them doing the job all on their own.
4. Reward them for a job well done. We all love to be rewarded. You can choose what type of reward you want to give your kids for doing their chores and cleaning up after themselves. We love the Puzzle Piece Reward System, but you find what works best for your family and stick with it!
5. Be consistent. Make sure you are making your kids follow through. Make a rotating chore chart and make sure that your child knows what they are responsible for. If they start to get lazy just remind them that you are a family unit and you all help each other.
Sometimes you might have to do things for your kids that they should be doing on their own. And that’s just fine. I have a son who is a Senior this year and he is so busy with school, work and preparing to serve a full time LDS Mission, that I catch myself doing things for him because he is a hard worker and sometimes he deserves a little help, just like I do. Sometimes my daughter does forget her PE clothes at home, and I will bring them to her because I can. These are children that are hard workers and have learned at an early age that they can help at home. So sometimes it’s OK but I always remember that they need to learn these things to contribute good things to society.
So have your teenager call and schedule their orthodontist appointment. Have your 5 year old help you with the dishes. You’ll have fun working together and you’ll be proud of the responsible adults your children will become.