Okay, stay with me here… I remember watching an episode of Nanny 911, where a mother was desperately trying to get everyone ready to get out the door in the morning. Her children were at her pant legs, whining that they didn’t know where their shoes were, that they needed their clothes on, that they couldn’t find their backpacks. And she was frantically searching the house, with munchkins following behind, trying to do it all for them. Right down to putting socks and shoes onto her school age child and searching for each of their belongings. And the children, they just continued whining until their “needs” were met and did not do anything themselves. She explained that she makes their beds because they don’t do it “right” and that they don’t know how to do these things for themselves.
The Nanny explained, doing everything for your child isn’t actually helping them. It is keeping them from learning how to help themselves.
I am protective, as any mother is, but I try to step back. When my kids get hurt, I try to train them to brush it off. When they get scared, we work on laughing it off. When they make a mess, we work on cleaning it up… and when there is a need, we work on meeting it.
Some days, it is a messier lesson than others…
Yeah, that right there is a sensory bin gone WRONG! And a three year old who isn’t thrilled with the idea of cleaning it up, without help. Ultimately, we finished the job, but he definitely worked it off. Gotta love that look, too, right. A mix between defiance and embarrassment. As it should be. He was aware that his choices were poor and the consequences were less than desirable. A lesson. Score!
My kids are currently 1 1/2 and 3 1/2. I understand that they can’t mop floors and mow the lawn, and that they shouldn’t be responsible for managing a household – they are children.
BUT… in order to prepare them to ONE DAY run households, we are teaching them every day. My daughter, believe it or not, empties the dishwasher. She hands every piece to us (since the counter is too high.) It’s only terrifying some of the time. And our son sets and clears the table, at least one meal each day.
And then there is the laundry. My kids help to move laundry along. They move wet clothes to the dryer and dry clothes into a basket. Sometimes they both help, sometimes, it’s just my son. But they help. My son even starts the dryer for me. (This can be a blessing and a curse.) But they recognize that it helps me. They see that when the chores are done, I can relax and play more with them, and I am more relaxed and content. And they like a content Momma.
Even toddlers can learn some responsibilities. They both brush their own teeth (and I redo as needed,) and my son is learning to dress himself. They can both undress fairly well and know where pajamas are kept so that they can get them for bed time. They know where hampers are for dirty clothes and they know how to remove their shoes after coming home – and where to put them. They help put the dog food dishes into the kennels and then into the dishwasher. They help gather things in the yard so that I can mow.
I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m telling you this so that you know that it is possible. When you teach a child that YOU have to do everything in the house, they will not take initiative to help. When you teach a child that they can contribute and they learn that they can do things too, it is a huge blessing!
Like Daniel Tiger says,”Everyone is big enough! Big enough to do Something!”