Here are some things to keep in mind as you start guiding your younger kids towards self-reliance. Next week, I’ll talk about ways to help tweens and teens develop self-reliance.
Think about the future. “First, begin with the end in mind—self-reliant children become self-reliant adults,” Grace said. When we keep in mind who we want our children to become, it helps us parent better in the present.
Break tasks down. A preschooler will find it overwhelming to pick up an entire room, but will be able to start with just the block. Dividing a larger task into smaller pieces helps the child learn how to do the task. Then gradually increase the responsibilities until the child is doing the entire task on his or her own.
Write it down. Some kids do well with oral instructions, but the under 10 crowd generally can’t follow more than one or two instructions at a time. Use pictures and/or words to list the steps for how to do specific chores. My ebook, Chores for Kids, has examples of this.
Let them practice. Your kindergartner is going to spill some milk making his breakfast cereal, but it’s better to teach him how to clean it up and let him practice pouring than to swoop in and do it for him.
Have patience. Gently correct your child’s performance in a task or chore once in a while, but avoid nitpicking or micromanaging the task. No one wants a micromanager criticizing every move.
Let them expand their wings. Remember, if they can operate a computer or smartphone, they can operate a dishwasher or washing machine—or any other household appliance. “Kids intrinsically want to be self-reliant. They want us to trust them and to be able to prove to us they can do something,” said Campbell.
Read on for suggestions on preschoolers through fourth graders can do around the house.