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, put together 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 easiest chores can take kids what seems like an eternity to finish.
But letting kids take on tasks 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 patience should pay off in the long run as children become more independent.
Kids often need a bridge before they can accomplish a more difficult task. 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 dust pans
- clothing that is easy for kids to put on and take off.
Newsflash: 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 the responsibility. Later, you could say: “Let me give you a tip about how to make your bed really smooth.” or “Just so you know, 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.
Make helping a natural part of being a family. Getting kids involved in chores and household tasks helps build their self-esteem. Let kids help make dinner, set the table, clean-up, clean the cat litter, straighten the living room, etc. And let your kids know that everyone in the family helps out – not just kids and not just adults.
Wondering how to get kids started on daily chores? This step-by-step guide will help get you started (click image to learn more):
Charts can be a great way to remind kids what they need to do when without you having to nag them.
Some examples include:
- 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
- a chart for how to clean a bathroom or living room properly (Check out Educent’s Zone Cleaning Charts)
- a simple chore chart to remind all family members what needs to get done when.
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 their 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 are more capable, responsible, independent, and are inching closer towards self-sufficiency.
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