toddler-getting-dressedHow do I start to teach my child to be independent (when I’ve always done everything for them?)

Toddlers love to help mum, but of course it takes far longer to let them help then it does to quickly do it yourself. Before too long the years have flown and you start to realize (no matter what their age) that you have continued to do everything for your child. The turning point could be when your prep child has to dress themself for a school swimming lesson and doesn’t know how, or you have a teenager that doesn’t know how to put their washing away or too cook anything! Regardless of the when you realize that your child needs to be more independent - it is never too late to teach them to help and take care of themselves.

So where do you start? Start with changing your thinking. All children from the age 1 onwards can help! Helping is contributing to a family and having a role to play. The trick is figuring out firstly what is realistic for their age to be able to do and then changing what you expect then changing how you parent. So ask around of other parents who have children of similar age about the ways their childs helps, think about what you were expected to do as you grew up, (we have smaller families now so parents do more for their children) and if in doubt ask a parenting expert for guidance.

Next just start! Explain the change in how your household works to your child, regardless of age. Then start to ‘hand over’ jobs big and small from putting their towel back on the towel rail, to putting their pile of washing away – in the cupboard, in the right place.

The upside of ‘handing over’ is that you are giving and teaching your child life skills in how to look after themselves and their room which will one day be their house, they will know where to find things in their room eg. Clothes, shoes if they were the one to put them away. Think putting their own washing away, setting the table, clearing the table, stacking and unpacking the dishwasher, making their bed, dressing themselves, emptying the rubbish, tidying the common living areas, hosing out, getting their own breakfast, ordering take out on the phone, getting a bottle of milk etc. Then just break the job down into steps, show them how, then ask and expect them to do it.

Make it age appropriate but beware, kids are capable of doing far, far more than a parent thinks they can! So don’t be deceived or guilted by age thinking ‘they couldn’t possibly...’ And remember the best you can do for your child as a parent is ‘to teach them how to do it for themself’ not to do it for them.

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