Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Tips for Fostering Independence in Our Children

Captain E (10) running an errand by himself at Old Navy.
I waited in the car.
When my children were first learning to talk the word "mom" brought such love and joy into my heart...ten years and four kids later I'm not going to lie, sometimes the word "mom" fills me with feelings of dread.  Let's look at a typical day.  I realize after several hours of homeschool and laundry that I have neglected to use the restroom since I woke up.  I get in there and it occurs to me that maybe now is the time to take care of the serious bathroom business and then the "Mom's" start up.  "Mom, Captain E did this."  "Mom, Cheetah is stuck in the dishwasher."  "Mom, there is water going everywhere."  You get the idea right.  It is pure pandomanium and all I really want to do is go to the bathroom and have five minutes of that too much to ask?  Aparently so, but that doesn't mean that I can't do something to help encourage independence in my children...

1) Don't hover.  I mean seriously just don't.  We went on a hike with the kids this summer on the rim of a valcano.  I seriously wanted to scream about every thirty seconds for my kids to "Be Careful."  I'm a hover mom.  I know this, but if you are a hovering mom, take a chill pill.  I mean really.  Doing too much for our kids, giving them too much direction, it is stifling.  Even if you have to chant "relax" twenty-five times a minute to keep yourself calm, take a step back and see how they will solve problems.

2) Allow children to make choices.  Children need to be allowed to make choices.  That doesn't mean that they get to decide every facet of their lives but the more choices we can give them the better they will feel and the more prepared they will be when they get to start running their own lives.  Things like what they are going to wear or how much of something on their plate they are going to eat should be turned over to them immediately.  As a parent you have control over what you are going to make for meals or what clothes you buy your children.   Let go of some control and have them make as many little and daily choices as they can.

3) Give your child chores. In our house we actually pay our children to do housework.  We went back and forth on this for quite a bit but in the end a chore chart connected to an allowance worked best for us.  We wanted our children to have the opportunity to have an allowance so that they could make decisions about spending money and learn about savings, tithe, the consequences of not paying attention to a budget when it was still small change.  We also wanted them to help around the house without complaint.  So now they can earn money for chores...not making their beds and picking up their rooms because that is stuff that they own but things like making dinner, weeding in the lawn, washing clothes, cleaning bathrooms, washing dishes, dusting, mopping floors.  It's nice because they are learing valuable life skills and are being helpful. 

4) Encourage children to learn to take care of their own needs.  Things kids need to know how to do, put on their own shoes (by kindergarden they should probably know how to tie them), get dressed, button their own pants, zip their own coats, open their own fruit snacks or ziplock baggies, put the straw into their own milk.  Sure these skills come at different ages but if you don't encourage them to try and show them how to do things they are going to be that kid at school who is constantly asking the teacher for help or that kid at home constantly asking you for help.  While we are on this topic can we talk about bum wiping, sure for a few years this is going to be primarily on you, but the sooner you can get them taking care of it the better.  Nothing like being at a friends house and hearing their seven year old yell out from the bathroom, "Someone come and wipe my bum." or having the kid asking their teacher to help them with that.  Give the kid some dignity and teach them to do it early.  Helpful hint, flushable wet wipes are super helpful when kids are first learning.

 I found this great little guide on what life skills kids should be doing at different ages here on the site family education.  I'm going to do a little compelation below just because I hate sites that make you use slide shows to get all the info.

Age by Age guide to Life Skills By Lindsey Hutton

Age 2-3
  • help put own toys away
  • dress (with some help)
  • put own dirty clothes in hamper
  • clear plate after meals
  • assist setting the table
  • brush teeth and wash face with assistance
Age 4-5
  • know full name, address, and phone number
  • know how to make emergency call
  • perform simple cleaning chores
  • feed pets
  • understand money
  • help with basic laundry chores
  • choose own clothes
  • tie shoes, here is a little video that makes it easy

Age 6-7
  • help with cooking meals
  • mix, stir, and cut with dull knife
  • make basic meals like sandwich
  • help put groceries away
  • wash dishes
  • use basic household cleaners safely
  • straighten up bathroom after using
  • make bed without assistance
  • bathe unsupervised (that being said I still go in and was Gigi's hair.  Even with the cut she still has so much of it, it is difficult to get all the soap out)
Age 8-9
  • fold own clothes
  • learn simple sewing
  • care for outdoor toys
  • take care of personal hygiene without being told
  • use a broom and dustpan properly
  • read a recipe and prepare a simple meal
  • help create a grocery list
  • count and make change
  • take written phone messages (my kids like to read me my text)
  • help with simple lawn duties such as watering and weeding (obviously this is just suggestions...we actually start weeding duty long before this although be warned in a garden sometimes it is tough for kids to tell the difference between weed and say something you want like baby carrots)
  • take out trash
Age 10-13
  • Stay home alone
  • make purchases at store by self
  • change own bed sheets (E could do this at seven)
  • use washing machine and dyer (I start teaching this at seven)
  • plan and prepare meals
  • use the oven to broil or bake food
  • read labels
  • iron clothes
  • use basic hand tools
  • mow the lawn
  • look after younger siblings and neighbors (I'm thinking closer to 13 than 10 on this one)
Age 14-18
  • mastery of all above skills
  • perform sophistciated cleaning and maitenance chores such as changing the vacuum cleaner bag, cleaning the stove, unclogging drains
  • fill the car with gas, add air to and change a tire
  • read and understand medicine labels and dosages
  • interview for and get a job
  • prepare cooked meals.
Young Adults - Prepare to live on own
  • Know how to support themselves while away at college.
  • make regular doctors and dentist appointments
  • understand finances, manage bank account, balance a checkbook, pay bills, understand credit cards
  • basic contracts like apartment or car lease
  • schedule car maintenance
5) Let your child feel the natural consequences of their actions.  Life is all about learning. When you are young the consequences of your behavior are often small but as you get older it seems like consequences grow exponentially with your height.  Too often parents try to shield their children from negative consequences.  Sure there are going to be times when maybe a consequence is completely out of line but really think about it hard before you step in.  Nothing like having to front your kids rent money for the rest of their lives because they never learned what it meant to have to do without when they were young.

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