Organized for SuccessI'm not saying EVERYTHING in your life needs to be completely organized and scheduled. Life is messy and unorganized and, well, life. BUT small steps in keeping your child organized can help them become independent. The bookbag always goes on the table. The shoes always go by the front door. A friend told me, "The weekly homework goes on the front of the refrigerator under a certain magnet until Friday. When we work on it, it comes off. When we're done, it goes back in the folder. Everyone knows where it is and what we do. We all know the routine and no one gets upset." This is a great plan. Children are upset when they don't have what they need, but organizing things like homework helps them be independent. When my boys were young, we bought a 5-drawer plastic cabinet for their rooms. Sunday night, we picked our clothes for the week. They had to put socks and underwear in each drawer. Then, they had to make 5 piles on their beds with shirts and pants. My husband and I would double-check their choices, then one outfit went in each drawer. This was a life-saver for mornings. We didn't have to debate what to wear, but more importantly, they could dress themselves without my help. Teaching small steps in independence, encourages larger ones.
Children can do so much more independently than they think and sometimes, more than we think. Let them help you make list of what they are in charge of independently. When we let them make the list, they will be more apt to do it. Look at small parts of your day to make the list. When it is breakfast, ask them what they can do for themselves. Let them help you decide. Don't do everything for them. It will work against everybody in the end.
Have AccountabilityIf you are making an Independent Chart...make them do it. You can't expect them to be independent when YOU want them to be. They need to be held accountable. Here's a biggie: there isn't necessarily an award for doing what you are supposed to do. It's just what you are supposed to do. You can compliment them and brag about them. BUT allow that to be the reward. Help them take pride in their work. Here's the other part: Don't make excuses for them either. Sometimes, they need a consequence to build a need for independence. We tend to want to protect our children from consequences, but we're teaching them how NOT to be independent.
Give ChoicesAnother part of being independent is not always "getting your way." The world isn't that way, so creating a world that is will be doing you and your child a great disservice. Giving choices is a perfect way to allow them input, without allowing them to "rule the roost."
"Would you like to pick up your clothes before or after your both?"
"Would you like to help with cleaning the kitchen today or tomorrow?
Build StaminaYou can't expect independence all at once, but you also can't expect to go from relying on you to completing large tasks independently over night. Start small and build on success. Tell them to write their name on their homework while you are out of the room, and expect it done when you go back. "You complete the first row of math problems, then we'll check it." Another idea for reading time, is giving your child time to preview a book before you read it. When your nighttime reading begins, ask them to predict what will happen or ask if they have any questions before your start. A fun way to start the story is with an "I wonder..." statement. "I wonder what will happen to Jack and Annie tonight." They need to have time to themselves to become independent.
Now, parent-to-parent, this is harder on you than it will be them. I understand the mom-thinking or the dad-thinking, "This is my baby. I don't want to rush him/her to grow up." This is sabotaging talk - for you and them. If you do everything for them, they won't build problem solving skills, won't need to be self-reliable, and they won't become independent...and that should be your goal.
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