This is a question I have been asking myself with a lot more regularity lately. Mainly because I am a little more tired than usual and suffering a few bouts of ‘can’t be bothered’ syndrome. (Oh and I’m just coming out the other side of the first trimester of another pregnancy)! To put a positive spin on ordering my kids around a lot more, I figured that there were probably a lot of tasks I was performing that my kids were perfectly capable of undertaking themselves, and thus I was denying them the right to a pathway of greater freedom and independence. Happy to sell it any way I can!
It seems that the shrinking of our families (with some exceptions obviously), the onus of responsibility seems to have fallen with greater weight on to the parents, many of whom see these tasks as simply being “their job”. There are no longer vast numbers of siblings to chip in and help out with younger children and with the general running of a busy household. With another baby on the way, my husband and I have had to increase the number of tasks we allocate to our children purely through necessity. With more children generally comes more tasks, and thus it was imperative we start turning the tables on our children, or at least get them to lay out the placemats. The benefits of allocating more tasks to our children is certainly something that all families no matter what their size should consider, not only to take some of the burden away from often already overworked parents, but more importantly to create a self-sufficiency in our kids that will help them build an array of skills and a belief in their own abilities that will help them sustain an independent future.
For many parents it is simply quicker and easier to do certain jobs yourself, confident in the knowledge that at least it will be done properly the first time around. Whilst this is an easy trap to fall into and one which I too have easily succumbed, I am now realising the importance of teaching our children how to do certain tasks correctly so that we can all reap the benefits in the long run. With one child having a visual disability, it was always easier for us to do many of his everyday tasks for him until we began to realise that these were all tasks that we were pretty sure he was capable of doing. And yes, they may not always be done perfectly and at times it may be painstakingly slow, but it is certainly a start and he is well on his way to being far more independent than we probably ever thought he would be.
I remember the excruciation of trying to teach our eldest son to tie his shoelaces. I also recall the frustration of the boys unpacking the dishwasher with the plates and bowls in completely different drawers to where I usually put them. On more than one occasion I had to repack the dishwasher in order for it to close properly. But the benefits now certainly outweigh those early frustrations, it just takes a bit of patience and persistence!
Obviously the help you get from your children needs to be age appropriate. Even my 18 month old is now given a cloth to clean up spills. Yes I will more than likely have to redo it, but I am hopefully instilling in him even from this young age the importance of cleaning up after yourself (didn’t quite get that done to perfection with the first 3 boys but you can only learn from experience)!
So next time you go to pack your child’s lunch in their kinder or school bag, put on their shoes and socks, set the table, make their beds, carry their schoolbag, hat and toy that they insisted on bringing, put their washing in the laundry, put away their clothes, clean up their toys, unpack the dishwasher or any other of the zillion chores we perform, check with yourself whether there are any other able bodies running around that are perfectly poised to chip in and help.
So as a final note…..remember…..the less we do for our children , the closer they move to building on their resilience and resourcefulness ….and the more time we as parents have to sit back and enjoy our families!