Following on my last blog Four reasons to foster independence in the early years let’s now explore the role of parents, the very foundation they must build, the changes they should be making BEFORE embarking on this journey to Independence building with their children.
In today’s modern age homes children are often underestimated. Their role is limited to completing their academic activities and scholastic achievements. But somewhere, parents these days are so preoccupied with the academic aspect only that they completely undermine their child’s role and responsibilities as a family member. This is a reality in many Indian homes today. Kids are simply not expected to do anything worthwhile around the house, so they SAVE that time to do their studies! Imagine the future of this kid, who has not done a single household chore, getting admission for his higher studies in the USA. While “going to learn aboard mission” is successful, sustaining there without any domestic help would be such a nightmare!
It is not about one thing being important than others here. It’s about striking the balance. Learning to be Independent is an important life skill as learning to read, write, or code! It’s that simple. The sooner a parent recognizes this, the better he can plan for the child to learn both things successfully.
Children are capable of handling so much more than what some people might think. The key here is to start off with kids early on, with simple and small household tasks, and slowly teach them more complex tasks as they grow older.
Let’s get to understand your key role as a parent and what you can do better/differently so your kid has a greater chance to follow through this journey of learning accountability and independence.
Here is a list of 10 mindful tips for parents to prep themselves on for having their children on board with home responsibilities.
1 Chore Determinant
Every child is different. Age cannot be and should not be the only factor when determining the right chore for the child. Along with the age factor, think of physical ability, maturity, knowledge, and interest aspect as well.
2 Let go of perfectionism
That is not even a goal here, to begin with. Have a relaxed approach or you will end up having ugly power struggles. Try and see the larger picture You are doing this to give them an opportunity to practice essential life skills here.
3 Let them try
Wait, observe, answer when being asked, show when being insisted, but just wait again for the child to try it for himself. Do not jump in and do it for them. It would subvert the whole point.
4 Do not delay
You might think your child is too young. Parents hold back because they think the kids need to be ready first. But the fact is they will only learn by DOING!
5 Praise and praise meaningfully
Appreciate even a small step towards the task, don’t hold back the praise until the task is done. Be generous recognize their efforts and encourage them while the work is still in progress. It helps in building positive momentum.
6 Be consistent
Have your family schedule in place, the chore chart visible for everyone involved. Children should be expected to regularly follow through. The expectation set should be clear and consistent to avoid any confusion for the children.
7 Be specific with the instruction
Have small two to three steps instructions to a task. For e.g. Just “Clean your room” - as a task is very vague
Instead of use:
- Put clean clothes in the closet
- Dirty clothes in the laundry bin
- Shoes on the shoe rack
- Toys in basket
Do it along – Practice – let go solo! Simply follow this mantra for introducing any new chore to your child. It will be a nice handholding yet liberating experience for them. Plus, at some level, they will feel to be treated equally when you are actually trusting to train them in things you do as an adult.
9 Make a chore chart
Create a chore chart that works for your family. Having a chart with everyone involved and the chores listed against their names, following the deadlines, or a status column. It acts as a great visual reminder. Put the chore chart where everyone can see it. Make sure it is readable to younger kids as well. You can use pictures, signs, and symbols to make it more relevant to toddlers and pre-schoolers.
10 Reminders and Deadlines
Now this entire exercise requires for parents, to have a lot of patience and empathy. There will be many situations when you’d be tempted to micromanage or let loose yourself nagging your kid. Using the “When/ Then” technique by Elizabeth Pantley (author of parenting books including Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging, and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate) can be really useful here.
For e.g. when you water the plants then you can come to have some screen time.
Having deadlines for chores is a good thing. It will give a timeframe to follow. While setting deadlines be smart and have a realistic doable timeframe. You can have short deadlines for daily chores and lenient deadlines for weekly chores.
For example Daily chore: Putting the dishes in the sink after mealtime
Deadline: immediately after the mealtime
Weekly chore: Dusting the furniture
Deadline: anytime during the week before the Sunday of that week or something like that.
So, when you are clear and have understood your role as a “chore facilitator”, you are now ready to go! Remember you are putting in these efforts in the process of making your children accountable and independent human beings. This kind of hands-on exposure will help them to develop into strong, competent, and capable adults ready to take on the world and its challenges. Worth enough to give it a shot, isn’t it!