Children are hard-wired to experiment, learn, and test the boundaries that are imposed upon them or the limits of their current capabilities. Children desire to be needed, want to help, and are intrigued by everything adults do- it’ evident when they mimic our gestures or words. From birth, they want to be included, held, and feel important. As they get a bit older their desires turn into autonomy while still having a “home base” available for when they need encouragement or comfort for difficult times.
Showing a child how to do a task will inevitably take longer than if you did it yourself, so why have them pitch in?
There will come a day when your child will leave the nest, and having certain skills will not only help them be resilient but also help them throughout their lives. A child as young as 2 can help put dirty clothes in the laundry basket or bus their dish after a meal or snack. A baby can sign “all done” to notify their parent or caregiver that their plate can be taken. Or a 4 year old can begin to learn tasks like sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and even cleaning or dusting. These skills give children confidence, know-how, and will benefit them and others in their lifetime.
If you’re looking to start adding in tasks, start with a few simple ones like busing their dish after a meal (and also scraping off uneaten food into the trash), washing their hands and drying them, and putting away dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Once those are mastered (in 1-2 weeks), then add in new tasks, like putting socks and shoes on, getting dressed, making their bed (it’ll still be messy compared to adult standards), putting groceries away, or loading the dishwasher. Keep adding in 1-2 things at a time until your child has proficiency with numerous skills. A child that’s 3 can also help with simple baking tasks like measuring out flour or using a hard boiled egg slicer to help cut up hard boiled eggs.
It can be simple, but have a major impact on their life and ability to take care of themselves. Especially in today’s times, parents are doing more and more things for their kids- things that the kids should know by some certain age. I remember my freshman college roommate didn’t know how to do laundry- she needed me to teach her how because her mom always did it, versus me who had been doing laundry since 12 years old. I was astounded that she didn’t know how to do this, and was curious how many others also had no clue and especially among the boys, how many didn’t know how to do laundry.
It’s doing your child a disservice to do everything for them. Obviously age-appropriate tasks are important, but most children can do more than we give them credit for, and challenges help them grow. So while they might struggle to put their shoes on at first, they will eventually learn how to do it swiftly and proficiently before you know it. Give them the chance, show them how, and let them work through the tasks a bit before you just dive in to help. Be on standby in case they need help or guidance, but let them have a good go first. You’ll need to set aside more time in a day for this way of doing things, but it will have the best long-term results, which is what parenting is all about- the long-term goal. Let’s help raise a generation of good and capable citizens!