Any luck with handling temper tantrums last week? It makes me so happy when I slow down and keep myself in that analytical mindset! This week I thought I’d share about the biggest contributors to raising independent children.
Two years ago Chad was hit by a car and was in the ICU for 11 days. This was when our oldest was six years old and in 1st grade. Us, as parents and this sweet little boy had the greatest lesson in what shapes independent children. Opportunity and Trust!
Each morning, for those 11 days, I would wake up at 4:30 in order to get to the hospital by 5:00. That way, I could be there before the Dr’s made their morning rounds. Chad was so groggy and medicated he could never remember what the Dr’s said. So, I made sure I was there to get his updates and what his next steps were.
This left my 6, 4, & 2 yr olds at home with Grandma who was getting ready for work. My 6 year old would wake up, get dressed, pour himself a bowl of cereal, pack his own lunch, and be ready in time to be picked up by a friend to go to school. Now, my sweet boy would even make himself a Turkey sandwich with mayonnaise, mustard, turkey, cheese, pickles, and spinach. People were shocked at my independent children!!!
When people asked me how this was happening I told them, I trusted my son. Even before my husbands accident. I had raised him in a way that allowed him his independence. If he wanted to help me make breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert I had him on the counter, helping alongside me, giving him assignments and trusting him. I’d guide him lovingly when he was about to make a mistake. I still trusted him to do it, instead of taking the job away from him. Sometimes it made prepping meals a little bit longer but it was fun!
One friend told me she couldn’t trust her child to do anything. When we talked further we learned that it was because she never gave her child the opportunities to try. When you start out an activity explaining the dangers and how you are putting a lot of trust in them. They get excited, empowered, and they just might try to impress you.
Kids really need to be given the opportunity. We were forced into a, not so ideal, situation that required us to allow our children to take care of themselves. Thankfully, because we trusted our children at a young age to help with things around the house like cooking, cleaning, and laundry they were able to step up and do what needed to be done.
I was talking to a friend the other day that has two children a 5 and 7 year old. She asked me how I do it with my four? When I started to explain everything my kids are expected to do by themselves she was shocked. She did everything for her kids like making them breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner… always. Washed and folded their laundry herself and helped pick out their clothes and get them dressed each morning. She put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket and picked up their toys at the end of the day when they were in bed. The way she described her household, I pictured her children treating her disrespectfully and like their personal slave. They expected everything from her with very little gratitude in return.
What Can You Do Now?
Start your children as young as you can. Give them simple tasks that they can do. My Clark (3) and Zoe (20 mos) help put their folded laundry in the drawers. Okay, I give Zoe one folded shirt and I carry the other shirts but she knows where all of her clothes go. If she ever decides she wants to dump out a drawer I make it a silly game to have her put everything back in the drawer. No way am I letting her get away with dumping and running. They put their shoes in the shoe bin and toys in the toy bin. When you have an organizational system in your house teach your kids what it is. They will start doing it without you needing to ask.
If you have older kids, start giving them simple tasks that they can do. If you fold the laundry make them put the folded laundry in their drawers. Start simple, even if they complain. I actually like when they don’t want to do it. My favorite is when they complain for example “I don’t want to put my clothes away” I’ll give them an alternative that’s harder. Say something like, Okay, you can either put your clothes away or I can teach you to scrub down the bathroom toilets AND you can’t watch shows for a week. If you give an ultimatum like that, you actually have to follow through with it or be sure it’s something that you can enforce. So be careful what you choose.
Let them do it!
I have to say, I have the hardest time watching other people struggle with something. I just want to say “watch out, let me just do it!” With kids, I’ve learned, they just have to do it! They have to struggle. They have to problem solve without your help. If you are as impatient as I can be, walk away, say “I’m going to let you practice that, I’ll be right back” or look at something else while they try.
A lot of times my kids learn how to do things because they are impatient. If they want some string cheese, for example, but I’m helping someone else, I tell them they can try and open it or wait until I’m finished doing what I’m doing. It either teaches them a lesson in patience or a lesson in independence. They’ll either try immediately by themselves, get bored of waiting and try themselves, or they will wait patiently until you can help teach them and let them try to do it. If it’s way to difficult for them to do then just talk them through what you are doing so one day they will be able to do it.
The Parenting Breakthrough: Real-Life Plan to Teach Kids to Work, Save Money, and Be Truly Independent was the first book that I read as a parent about creating independent children. I loved that it gave you ideas of what your kids are capable of doing. It really empowered me to be a better mom! I hope something here helps you raise more independent children!
That car accident a few years ago has completely influenced the way I teach and raise my children. When a tragedy strikes I always want them to be able to step up to a challenge and face it head on!