Monday, January 26, 2009

Encouraging Independence

No child really has to be taught independence. Each of my children has gotten to the point where that want to begin doing things on their own. Whether it is put on their own socks or measure the flour into the mixing bowl, there comes a day when they insist on my standing back with hands off! I thought my only choice was to give in and let them do poorly until they figure it out or insist that I do it for them the right way.

I've found that the best thing, though, is somewhere between the two. When the child asks to do a task alone, I take the time to teach them to do it the way I want it done. When Owen wanted to begin washing himself, it was tempting to insist that I continue doing it to make sure he didn't miss any stinky crevices (like those chubby neck folds). Instead, I handed him the soap and we played a game. I said, "As fast as you can, wash your slow as you can, wash your silly as your can, wash your knees..." Within a bathtime or two, he was reminding me of places he needed to wash.

When Maddie wanted to put the baking powder in the biscuit dough, I cringed imagining flat rounds. Instead of measuring it myself as always and letting her pour it in, I showed her how to heap it on the spoon and scrape it off against the edge of the can. I also explained the consequences of improper measurement so she understood the importance of getting it just right.

The same principle applies with housework. We require that our children help around the house, but when I have a job that must be done, it is often tempting to give them busy work and do the tough stuff myself. In the long run, it so much better to take a few minutes to teach them how to work beside me. At four, Maddie is a true helper! Last week, we cleaned the bathroom together and when she cleaned the sink alone, I didn't have to go behind her to check her work because I knew she knew what to do!

If you catch kids at the beginning of the, "I'll do it!" stage, even better! Owen loves to help. When Gavin puts away laundry, Owen runs around yelling, "What's my job?" until I give him a pile of socks to take upstairs.

Now if I could just teach them to not leave Legos (or other sharp toys) in my path...


  1. Great tips! I should definitely be letting them participate more... very needed reminder!

    God bless-

  2. I think it is so important for moms and dads to teach children to complete tasks by working right along side them. It really pays off in the long-run. I've heard that the Amish believe that for the 1st 7 yrs of a child's life they are a "strian" to the family, the next 7 years they can fend for themselves, and the 3rd 7 years they contribute to and bless the family. It is so true that it is easier to do housework myself, but if I take the time to train Emahry now, then by the time she is 14 she should be able to accomplish all of the household tasks on her own (not that I'm going to turn her into my personal servant, but an extra pair of hands will be very helpful).


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