Mornings at my house were once a mad race between taking care of two dogs, and ensuring my daughter arrived to school on time. Sitting in the carpool line, there was a striking distinction between her appearance and mine. While she arrived presentable, holding a backpack and her lunch bag, I hid behind a baseball hat of un-brushed hair and layers of clothing. However, the day finally presented itself when I stepped back from my role and gave my daughter exactly what she wanted—instruction and guidance to have freedom and independence! I learned that given the chance to prove their abilities, children are more than capable of taking care of many age-appropriate responsibilities. While our routine has drastically changed, I no longer feel stressed, simply because my seven-year-old is now accountable.
- An Alarm Clock: Young children would benefit from having an alarm clock with at least three settings. The first would be a wake-up alarm, while the second would give children a ten-minute warning prior to eating breakfast. At night, many children enjoy time in their bedroom before lights are turned off. The third alarm could be either a reminder to brush teeth and wash their face, or a reminder for lights to be turned off. Children who have the option of setting several alarms can feel empowered to stay on schedule without dad’s or mom’s constant reminders.
- A clean Room: Children need to know what the expectation is for a clean room. Is it just a tidy floor or should the bed be made, and clothes placed in drawers or on hangers? Reminders can become exhausting, especially when the items are several pairs of shoes, a bath towel, and dirty clothes. One solution is to place a white board on your child’s bedroom door. Together, you can create a check list. By the end of the day, all boxes must be checked. A clean room is a child’s responsibility. It certainly makes a difference when a floor is vacuumed or a favorite toy or shirt is needed.
- Morning Routine: As adults, we create routines that guide us through the morning and maintain our schedules. Children, too, need the same step-by-step routine. Placing numbered index cards may help young children follow a routine. The prize for completing all four or five steps could be playtime before breakfast, or helping to prepare breakfast or pack the day’s lunch.
- Making Lunch and Deciding on Snacks: Young children can be responsible for choosing their snacks, and making a sandwich. If mornings are too challenging, consider having your child decide upon the next day’s snacks the night before; so, by morning, half the lunch is completed.
- Household Tasks: Even young child can contribute to household responsibilities. Beyond placing dishes and glasses into the dishwasher, he or she can help fold their own clothing and put it away. Taking care of putting out a new bathroom towel daily, or knowing how to handle wet washcloths and towels, can help children understand that they, too, are a valuable member of the family.
- Maintaining the School Backpack: Some of the greatest lessons are taught through mistakes. Children who do not take care of their own folders, homework assignments, and books will often blame a parent for their lack of maintenance; yet, when the child takes full responsibility, he or she acquires the skill of organization and take pride in their ability as good students.
- Homework Assistance: Sitting next to children during homework sessions enables your child to depend upon the adult. Why not set a new precedent by having your child explain the directions, and then get started? Establish rules, such as the parent or guardian will only answer three questions. Encourage children to talk through problems, and guide their direction through questions.
- Leadership and Confidence: Children want to be trusted and to prove they can assist their family. It often begins as a means of expressing love and enjoying the praise. With time, children will establish a sense of independence for themselves. The goal of parenting is to give children the freedom to perform everyday living skills at every stage, moving toward adulthood. It’s time to let them prove they can!