Most of the time, I post about how I’m confused and/or miserable as a mother.
As Child gains in cognition (which it seems she does by impressive leaps almost daily), I’m figuring out a trick that I want to share.
Lazy Parenting = Good Parenting.
So let’s back it up for one second. I’m not talking about ignoring your kid while she writhes in agony on the couch or about never helping with homework or making her find her own ways to get places.
I’m talking about not doing stuff your kid can do for herself.
I’m talking about supervising and self sufficiency. About a kid who can fold her own laundry and put it away, a kid who knows how to pick up after herself or take care of a small milk spill. A kid who can do her homework while you cook dinner and ask questions as she encounters them.
If you want your kid to be good at life, you have to teach her how to do the stuff she needs to do to get by. The sooner the better. The earlier a kid figures out that time is hers to manage, the better she’ll be at meeting deadlines and finishing tasks early on. Do you really want to babysit your 15-year-old’s day planner for high school?
I didn’t think so.
A great way to do this is to–from very early on–make your kid do stuff for herself. Mine has been toddling her own trash to the garbage can since she could understand, “throw that away.” We used to sing a made up song every day and put away toys and trash before bed. Now, she can pick up her own room, she takes her dinner plates and such to the sink.
She throws away garbage without being prompted. She even does this in public. Yesterday, at Fort Muncy, she found somebody else’s empty coke bottle in a cut Xmas tree, and insisted that we throw it away.
Last night, we combined her reading with her room-cleaning.
I made her a simple list:
1. Put away clean clothes
2. Put dirty clothes in basket
3. Put away toys
a. Put away books
4. Throw away trash
She takes a HUGE amount of pride in being able to read the list and cross things off it. And it’s a good way to help her learn to assess a mess, too. I ask her what she thinks should go on the list, and last night, she was sure to remind me that I forgot number five.
“What’s number five?”
“Make your bed!”
She’s six, though, so I have to lower my standards a little bit. Her idea of “putting things away” is sometimes piling them up on a surface that is not the floor. Every time she employs this method, we have a little chat about what it means to put something away, and every time she cleans her room, she gets a little better at it.
As parents, we have to take advantage of this period during which our children yearn to please us.
If there’s something that your kid is cognitively capable of doing, teach her to do it.
This will show her the joy of learning new things, the thrill of taking care of herself, and give you a few minutes to NOT do something kid-focused.
It is hard. It is hard because she will be very, very slow and probably do a shitty job. Sometimes you will have to assist and/or redo he work. But both of you will feel better if she can take care of herself in small ways.
Of course, we all pick the ways in which we baby our kids, and that is good, too. Cutting too many cords too early can backfire. I think my folks would agree there.
I intend to pack Child’s school lunch as long as she’ll hold still for it. But I’m seeing the fruit of this independence-inspiring methodology already. She is interested in doing things for herself, and learning how to complete chores.
My mom employed this method. A slightly more extreme version of it, and more by necessity, because she had two small ones and a very, very busy (read, never home) husband when I was an older elementary student, but having met people in college who didn’t know how to do their own laundry, and even still–at 31–being surprised by things some of my peers don’t know how to do, I’m grateful for my competence.
I hope Child will feel the same way.