There is 30 minutes left before the school bell rings, your exhausted from the night before and your son or daughter still haven't brushed their teeth, got dressed, or eaten their warm hearty breakfast. And the kicker, your child is proclaiming at the top of their lungs how s/he doesn't want to go do school. Que the violin!
Like many parents, my morning routine to get my son ready for school was a daily challenge. So what do we do when we are pressed for time? We give in and we get them ready ourselves! We brush their teeth, pick out their clothes, dress them up, and even spoon feed them. The problem with that is we tend to get stuck in this way of doing things and our children get used to have us doing things for them. Don't feel bad, we've all done it! But we do need to think long term. Encouraging and supporting our children to be more independent, especially during crunch time, will not only take a load off our plate but will boost our child's confidence and allow them to become self-sufficient with their daily routine.
Here are 5 easy ways you support your child on the path to becoming more independent:
1) Get Your Child On Board - Get down to your child's eye level, make sure you have their full attention. Let's your child know s/he is becoming a big kid, so they are ready to big kid jobs.
2) Together Find Opportunities For Growth - With your child break down your daily routine into simple steps. Ask your child which of those tasks is she or he willing to take on. Remember, having your child choose the tasks on their own will encourage them to commit to responsibilities for the long haul.
3) Be A Coach Not a Dictator - Expect your child to mess up from time to time. Once your child gets the hang of the routine and how to get things done, expect your him or her to need reminders. You can take these opportunities to tell them what you want them to do or better yet, show them how it should be done. For example, instead of saying "Don't leave your toys there" or "Stop that", say "Where would be a good spot for your toy?", "Your toy would be safe here", or "Look, you can try it this way". Without criticism, model the correct behaviour and assure them mistakes happen to everyone.
4) Make It Easy For Them - Especially in the beginning, we want to build their confidence. Ensure your child understand the steps he or she needs to take to accomplish their task/routine by taking a photo of each step. For example, post photos of your child on the bathroom wall near the sink illustrating how to wash their hands or brush their teeth. Organize their play area, label sections, and ensure their books, toys and clothes are within child's arms reach. This will help reduce barriers and allow your child know where to expect to find his things.
5) Acknowledge or Praise - There has been many debates on whether praise is an effective tool to encourage good behaviour. But as parents you know what works best. If you are uncomfortable with praising your child, best practise suggest instead of just saying "Good Job!", you can say "I notice you got your shoes on all by yourself, amazing!" That way if your child put his or her shoes on the wrong feet, their confidence is still intact because you were able to acknowledge that they tried.
6) Master One Task At A Time - We don't want our little ones feeling overwhelmed, so focusing on one routine until they are ready to tackle the next.
7) Have fun With It - Turn it into an activity, or game. Be sure to allow extra time for you child to complete the task then you normally would if you were to do it yourself.
NOTE: Parent's know best! Apply the tips that best suits your suit and their needs.