Are you eager to have your young kids do more for themselves? Here’s how to encourage self-sufficiency in kids.
Is there anything more agonizing than running late for work and watching your 4-year-old try to tie his shoes?
One lace slips out of his hand as he S-L-O-W-L-Y tries to loop the other around. So he starts over again. And again. And again.
Even if he’s successful in making a bow, it will likely fall out in approximately 48 seconds.
Putting you back to square one.
There comes a time in every parent’s experience where we want more than anything for our kids to be independent. For them to tie their own shoes, make their own breakfast or remember to change their underwear without a reminder.
Getting kids to the point of self-sufficiency can be challenging. Often times we find it’s so much easier to say: “I’ll do it!” and take over a task just so we can move on with our day.
But each time we take over for our kids, we’re robbing them of the chance to learn on their own.
So how can parents encourage young kids to be self-sufficient without pulling their hair out?
While some independence comes naturally for kids, other tasks require coaching. In order to make the transition from dependence to self-sufficiency smoother, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Sometimes getting kids to be more self-sufficient simply requires parents to be on the lookout for tasks kids can begin to do on their own. Perhaps your child doesn’t actually need you to make their breakfast for them anymore? Or she is at the point of being able to brush her own hair? Often we become so accustomed to doing things for our kids that we forget to question whether they are developmentally ready to do them on their own.
Once you’ve identified a task or two your child could begin to do on their own, introduce the concept of independence one task at a time. Having kids tackle too many new skills at once can be overwhelming and discouraging.
Patience is a virtue
Just like the shoe tying, it takes an ENORMOUS amount of patience to stand back and let kids tackle tasks on their own. Often some of the most simple chores can take kids what seems like an eternity to finish.
But letting kids do chores on their own – with supportive coaching – can build their self-esteem and independence. Taking over a task your child is trying to master sends the message they’re not capable of doing the task on their own.
It might mean building in a bit more time in your day initially to let kids struggle with their new independent task, but your patience should pay off in the long run as children become more independent.
Sometimes chores are tricky for kids because the tools needed to complete the task aren’t make for little hands and bodies. This is where kid-sized tools can be handy, for example:
- small pitchers for little hands
- knives with a serrated edge
- kid-sized brooms and dustpans
- clothing that is easy for kids to put on and take off.
Your kids will not clean up spilled milk as well as you do or make their beds to your level of perfection.
And that’s OK.
The first hurdle is for them to feel capable of doing these tasks on their own and taking on responsibility. Later, you could say: “Can I give you a tip about how to make your bed really smooth?” or “You probably didn’t realize it but you missed a spot when wiping up the milk.”
Bite Your Tongue
Critiquing the way your daughter picked up her room is only going to make her feel incapable of doing it on her own.
Instead, praise the effort first and then ask if she’d like a few pointers on how to make her bookshelf even neater. It’s tricky to initially hold back comments when you know a task can be done better, but restraint will help build your child’s confidence in the long run.
Remember, kids often have no context for what is considered “good” or even “good enough”. Gently guiding them towards an understanding of doing a task well may take some time and coaching.
Having kids take part in family chores not only builds their self-esteem but also encourages greater self-sufficiency.
If you’re ready to give your kids chores, even if you tried before and failed, click on the image below to learn more about my FREE four-day course. The course covers how best to motivate kids to do chores as well as how to reduce your need to nag. You’ll also receive my Age-Appropriate Guide to Children’s Chores as a bonus.
Visual reminders can be a great way to let kids know what they need to do without having to nag them.
Some examples include:
- chore cards to remind kids which chores they need to do each day
- a chart to show every task that needs to be completed before leaving the house in the morning
- a chart to remind kids all the steps needed to get ready for bed at night
- cards that explain how to clean a bathroom or living room properly
Related: 13 of the Best Chore Charts for Kids
Keeping the end goal in mind
It can be tortuous to stand by as our children take an eternity to get dressed, brush their teeth or tie their shoes. And let’s not get started with how imperfectly they clean up their toys or spilled juice.
But if we’re willing to invest a few minutes of time and let go of perfectionism, we’ll find that as our children get older they’re more capable, responsible, independent, and are inching closer towards self-sufficiency. All of which benefits both them and us.
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