Teaching Your Kids Responsibility And Helping Them Gain Independence

You may be tempted to do a lot of tasks for your children? But instead of helping them, you may actually be preventing them from learning how to be an independent, responsible person. We introduce a new columnist, Angela Barbeisch, our Mom Diva on a Rant. She says the phrase "my mother forgot to do it" is forbidden in her house.
Angela Barbeisch

Stepping back
Our roles as parents may be the most important jobs of our lives. Yes, you may be a lawyer, or a social worker, or a retail manager, but this is the job where another little person's life will be affected and molded by the nurturing, care and discipline you provide.

As our children grow from toddlers to preschool to elementary age, are we growing with them?

Are we taking the time to step back and regard our child as the adult he or she will become, and providing the necessary help to encourage the child's independence and self-worth? Providing an allowance is a first step, but what about the personal ways we interact with our family?

If I left this house for two days it would fall apart!
How many times have you heard or perhaps spoken the following phrases?

"The teacher said he should cover his own books-like that might happen! "He's supposed to do ALL this homework tonight without any help-we'll never get through it if I don't give him half the answers" "She wants to cook her own breakfast but I don't want her anywhere near my stove!" "His room looks like a bomb hit it-it will take me all day to clean it!"

The fine line between nurturing your child and coddling changes as your child gets older.

I know of a mother who goes through the following routine every morning with her eleven year old son: She wakes him for school three times. The first time is the First call. She then waits ten minutes, and ten minutes after that. She has made herself a Snooze Button Mommy as I like to call it. She prepares his breakfast and carries it into his room. She lays out all his clothes for him, including socks and underwear. She packs his lunch and schoolbag and waits at the door with items in hand. Yes, she is a loving mother and yes, she is nurturing. But at the age of eleven, most of these duties should be carried out by the child.

Is this kid for real?
When this same child plays with my daughter, I notice that he is one of the few children that doesn't do certain things: Dinner: he never takes his plate to the sink without my telling him to do so. He always seems a bit surprised when I ask. He never thanks me for dinner, nor does he say it was good or bad.

This child was over for Chinese take-out. He couldn't open the soy sauce packet without assistance from me. He had never opened one. His mom always did it for him.



Please don't smoosh my sandwich anymore, mom
My sister-in-law loves to recount the time I had her over for lunch. I made us both sandwiches, cut hers in half, and then I smooshed it down with my hand, all in about the time span of three seconds. She looked down at her sandwich, looked at me and laughed hysterically. I was mortified.

I was so caught up in Mommy role that I didn't even realize what I had done. My own little one likes to have her sandwich flattened out, so I instinctively did so for my thirty-five year old sister. I know of other Mothers who have told me that they started cutting their husbands or friend's meat in restaurants before a gentle hand on the wrist stopped them.

I can do it myself, Dad
At the age of 10 to 13, children should be eating without assistance. They should be able to cut their own meat (I know Mom..it's scary when they use the knives for the first time, but it's time to get digging!) They should be getting ready for school with minimal prompting, getting their own breakfast, and ensuring their school bag is packed and ready with yesterday's homework, today's lunch, and any other requirements they need. They should know to brush their teeth and dab on deodorant without being told as well.

I keep a list on the kitchen door with last minute preparation details for my fifth grader. Before we leave, I point to the list and she reads the following:

  • Instrument? (If it's a band/chorus day, does she have her clarinet and music

  • Library books (If it's library day, does she have her book in the bag? Does she have any late books up in her room

  • Gym clothes? If it's Monday, she needs to have a fresh tee shirt and shorts to pack away for Gym.

  • Snack? This year's teacher allows them to have a 10:00 healthy snack. She checks to see that a snack is tucked inside her schoolbag.

  • Lunch/Lunch Money? Depending on the fare, does she have her lunch or the needed lunch money? Does she owe the school any money for borrowing or forgotten days?

  • Permission slip- Are any permission slips hiding at the bottom of the book bag for current trips?

    Does she do all this alone? Well, in my perfect fantasy world she does! Realistically, I assist with these tasks, but the key word is assist.

    Ultimately, SHE is responsible if anything on that list is forgotten. Sure, I felt guilty the first few times she took the rap. But she learned to be accountable for herself.

    The words "my mother forgot to do it" are forbidden in this home, and by her current teacher, and it's a welcome relief!

    Help your child help themselves grow into the independent, charming and moral adults you want them to be. Nurturing the flower is great, but please allow the roots to grow, and please don't overwater them!PregnancyAndBaby.com


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