Empowering Kids to be Independent
So, I hate to admit it, but I have been teaching my daughter a bad habit. It's embarrassing, and I feel pretty lousy about it. Each day, I have been encouraging her to be completely dependent on me. Here's an example of me, failing my daughter:
Kiddo: "Mom, can I have some water?"
Me: "Sure, one sec."
I will stop whatever I am doing to go and get my daughter a glass of water. It doesn't matter what I am doing. I should mention, that my daughter is 11 and has the ability to verbalize her needs and wants to me. Also, she can go to the cabinet, get a glass, and get herself some water. I have created a habit that now hinders her from helping herself because she knows that she will receive water from me when she asks for it, even though she is fully capable of solving this problem herself. I'm sure many of you are thinking, "Hey, I do the same thing because I love my child. What's the big deal?"
Here's the issue: I am preventing her from gaining independence and holding her back from making good choices for herself. Children thrive when they have routines, know what is expected of them, and can anticipate predictable outcomes. The current generation of children is not being exposed to the experiences that help to support problem solving and to develop life skills. There are many reasons for this, including pressure on parents from social media groups to do everything for their kids. This constant fear of being judged can drive parents to over indulge their children's needs, but also to over react when their children aren't able to perform age appropriate tasks. Children acquire a type of learned helplessness that prevents them from having the confidence to simply try and see what happens.
Many children, especially those that struggle with anxiety, find everyday tasks like getting dressed, grooming, homework, and organization frustrating and overwhelming. Starting early with small, daily chores can help to instill a sense of pride in children, improve their sense of intrinsic motivation, and decrease stress and worry. This process can also help to support children that tend to hyper-focus on certain tasks and routines. In this instance, checking tasks off of a list signals a natural ending point, which can help to ease feelings of anxiety.
I have created the following list of age appropriate chores for kids. This is by no means a definitive, all encompassing list, but it should serve as a good starting point. Please note that children that have sensory processing issues, emotional/cognitive delays, and/or autism may require an adjusted list. Exposure to the chores on this list can help to build the independence that all kids need to empower themselves to have the best life possible. Some kids may be resistant or take time to transition to new experiences, but don't give up. You may be surprised at how much your kids can and want to do, when they know what's expected of them.