I recently came across an article that went viral in 2013 written by a Mum frankly tired of how she felt society was raising children. I read this article with a fair bit of scrutiny at first but as I continued to read on I had to agree to a lot of what she said.
You can read the article here;
This article stayed with me all day and I was reminded of some advice that was given to me to help my kids be responsible from a young age. This advice is quite possibly the best advice I have ever been given and is appropriate for all children from a young age to all young adults! Why is it the best advice? Simply put – it encourages children to take responsibility.
Ever had difficulty tying to get your child to put dirty clothes in the dirty basket, tidy up their toys or brush their teeth? It’s so frustrating and you end up sounding like a broken record on repeat until finally you snap to get their attention!
Let me tell you a secret! ALL Children will push boundaries as far as they can be pushed, they do this from when they are babies and it basically stays until they enter the world as adults. I know what you are thinking, babies don’t have the ability to manipulate!? Well call it what you will but as soon as they take their first magical breath their nature will be to fight for what they need and want. Extra feeds? Extra cuddles? Warm bed with Mum instead of sleeping alone? It’s in our human nature to want to be comfortable and have our needs met. This is a wonderful and beautiful part of being a parent and watching them develop but you must quickly establish some boundaries or you will not have a lot of say in how your day goes. IT will be your baby who decides your day.
So how do we get these children to listen and obey your requests? It happens slowly but a win is a win right?! As soon as your child has learnt a new skill for example putting blocks away into a container, this skill is then theirs to own. A child old enough to sit on a mat and play with a few toys can be shown how to put those items back in the box. It takes patience and regular practice but once you are satisfied they know how to do it and what your expectations are, then they now ‘own’ that skill. This skill should never be given back to you, the ownership belongs to them. This means that if they are playing with some blocks one day and crawl off to do something else, they must first tidy up the blocks. A young child will always need a lot of instruction and supervision but if you stick with it and remain consistent you will be rewarded with a child that remembers to always pick up those blocks. I should note that for young children under 3 years they cannot be expected to learn more than a few things. Your expectations will be too high if you expect them to pack up every toy they play with all day long or go and brush their own teeth each night. Just choose a few things you would like them to do well and remain consistent.
For an older child, lets say you are trying to help them remember to put their dirty plate in the sink. As soon as they can can demonstrate this several times they then ‘own’ the skill of always putting their bowl in the sink to be washed. Do not repeat yourself each and every day. Do it for a week or two (every day) so you know you have made your expectations clear but then stop reminding them!
How do you enforce this you ask?! Well it’s not for the faint of heart, they will argue and ‘forget’ but the alternative is sounding like a broken record and getting angry! Be firm and expect them to rise up to meet your expectations. Do not enter into a battle with them, just be non negotiable with the things you have decided they ‘own’. A perfect example of this is our 4.5yr old must brush his teeth and hair in the morning and get dressed before he is allowed any TV. Quite often we are rushed on the mornings he goes to PreSchool and it would always end in an argument and me practically dragging him around the house to get ready. It was very frustrating! So We decided to make up a list of the things we expect him to do each morning. If he doesn’t get them done and asks to go outside to play or watch TV we respond with ‘Are you allowed to yet?”. At first he didn’t understand what this question meant but now he understands when I say it, he hasn’t fulfilled something expected. It’s up to him to now go away and think about what task he hasn’t completed. I am non negotiable on three things in his day and he knows it well. As they get older you can add to this list of ‘ownership’. The three things I expect my eldest to always complete are;
- Get ready for the day appropriately. Brush teeth, hair, get dressed and make bed. He is still mastering the art of bed making but a decent attempt must be made.
- Always ask to leave the table when finished a meal, thank the person who made it and put dirty dishes in the sink.
- Tidy up toys when finished playing in his room. The days that he is home he has room play and his room tends to get very messy. I don’t always force him to tidy it after room play as he is quite loud and can wake his younger brother but he does need to complete this before bed. For more on Room Play read this article, it will change your life!
Set your child up for success
If you are struggling with your child and honestly doubt they will be able to do even one thing, I say YOU CAN! You must choose something that you know is achievable and not too stressful for you or your child. Teach them, guide them, praise them when they accomplish and do this for a week or so every single day! Set them up for success. Then when the time is right tell them they must do this each and every day and you will not remind them. If they fail to do the expected task they won’t have other freedom’s given.
Wouldn’t it be nice to raise your children in a way that teaches them responsibility without constantly being forced. Start slow and add one thing at a time. You won’t ever have the perfect child who always achieves every goal you give them but you can master one thing at a time and 80% of the time you’ll love seeing the results. Stay consistent, firm and fair. Remember the aim is to stop reminding them! They can do it without you!
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