Monday, February 13, 2012

Teaching Self-Reliance

Things are a wee bit chaotic in my house these days. There are 3 kids under age 5, for starters. I have a book coming out in a little over 2 weeks. My husband has a busy time at work as well. We've called in lots of help, but there is still a lot to be done.

So I've been pondering ways that my 4-year-old, at least, could start to do a few more things on his own. He knows how to get himself dressed...but doesn't always want to. He could wash himself better in the bath. He could bring his dishes from the table to the sink (and throw any garbage away). He could put his and his little brother's dirty clothes in the hamper.

Thinking I would try to get buy-in on this project, I asked him what jobs he'd like to do around the house. The answer? "I want to take care of Cutie." That's his nickname for the baby. A nice idea, but a 4-year-old doesn't make a good baby sitter.

So where does that leave us? A sticker chart helped with the potty training project a few years ago, but I have a sense that it wouldn't be as motivational in this circumstance. I'm trying to talk in a polite way that makes expectations clear, such as "Thank you for bringing the Legos back to the basement" as he's standing there pondering whether he's going to do it. But I'm really curious if people have had success with anything in particular. He's a smart kid, so I've pondered just explaining what I have here. Mom and Dad are swamped, and we would really appreciate it if he could be a big boy and do some things to help. But who knows...


Anonymous said...

It's not really self reliance you are looking for here. It's "pitch in for the family". What you are considering tell him is you don't have time for his needs so take care of himself and while he's at it, would he mind doing some other chores. That's likely to backfire. Maybe he'll rise to the occasion, or maybe he'll seek ways to get your limited attention. Be careful.

If you want him to be responsible, have him do it because he's a big boy and ready to help out. Because it's for his own good as part of your parenting him to be a responsible kid. But don't expect that to lighten your load. You'll need to stay on him, teaching him how to do the things you ask. Like get dressed, bathe, and brush teeth, get into bed and ready for sleep on his own, pour his own cereal, etc. There are lots of things he can do, but he'll still need you there cheering him, and it will NOT lighten your load. That doesn't happen til they are about 7 and can see what needs to be done, do it, and enjoy the praise.

lgm said...

Just make it all part of the daily routine, as is done in preschool.
When they walk in, they put the coat on the hook, not the floor. If they don't they get sent back. When playtime is over, they have a few minutes scheduled for toy cleanup - put on some music and be done before the song is over to make it a game. A 4 is not going to be consistent or wanting to do these things alone, so plan in some company and humor in the training.

Unknown said...

We started having our 4 year old clear the table after dinner, and it works well. We would set a timer, and if he hadn't completed it in the time we set, he was punished. It is a matter of learning to contribute to the family. After a short while, we didn't need to set the timer anymore, and often don't need to ask him to do it. 4 year olds are more than capable of helping out. Often it is just a matter of what they are expected to do.

Anonymous said...

I use the Love and Logic strategies for parenting. They speak quite a bit about responsibilities of children. The beauty of their techniques is it does teach children self-reliance while also having them contribute to the family and building their self-esteem.