“The most beautiful sight in the world is a child going confidently down the road of life after you have shown the way.” – Confucius
A year ago, my husband and I made a list of chores that our 6-year-old twin boys could do at home. Each chore had a price assigned to it that the child doing it would earn. We were thrilled at having found out a way to teach our children how to help around at home and at the same time earn money. But my joy was short-lived. A friend who had come to visit us looked at the chart and had a hearty laugh. She asked me if I was serious. Not knowing what was so funny about the chart, I nodded nervously in the affirmative. She looked at me and said, “These are not chores. They are simple contributions that should be coming from your children. You don’t need to pay them for it. You don’t get paid to cook a meal and clean up the mess they create, do you?”
I must admit that I was gutted. What I thought was a fabulous idea turned out to be a bribe that I would be paying my boys to help me with the chores.
After much thought, I concluded that what I intended to do was teach my children to be self-reliant, but my approach was wrong.
So, how can we teach our children to be self-reliant? And, why is it important?
Carolyn Tomlin in her post, ‘10 Ways to Create Self-Reliant Learners’, published in EarlyChildhood News urges parents to give their children the opportunity to suggest options, and be mindful of their feelings about the choices they make.
Teaching children about self-reliance makes them understand how to manage their emotions and behaviour. Self-reliant children tend to be independent and are more likely to develop better academic and social skills. They are also more mindful in nature and better aware of the choices they make.
Parents need both patience and practice to ensure that their children learn the skills that would make them self-reliant. Here are some of the most recommended methods to help you make your child self-reliant.
Guide them instead of doing the task for them
Most parents are guilty of overprotecting their children. They tend to solve the problems for their children because they don’t want their children to suffer any kind of failure, disappointment or frustration. But, not allowing children to develop skills that would help them deal with a multitude of issues later in life can backfire. If you are also one such parent, avoid your parental instinct of taking over and completing the task for your child. Take a deep breath, step back and guide your child on how to complete a task on his own. The joy of achievement that you would see on your child’s face and his increased level of confidence would make the effort worthwhile. Try it!
Step back gradually
My boys love working in the kitchen. But being an overprotective mom, I was initially worried that they might hurt themselves while cooking. So, whether it was teaching them how to roll chapattis or preparing a cup of tea or getting a simple breakfast ready, initially, either I or my husband was around to ensure that they were safe while learning to do things on their own. As a parent, teach your child how to do things on her own, and step back gradually once you are confident that she can do it all alone. Jessica Lahey’s book, ‘The Gift Of Failure: How The Best Parents Learn To Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed’, talks about this.
Praise the effort
When your child dresses up on his own or cleans up the mess in his bedroom, praise him using positive phrases like, “Isn’t it wonderful that you got dressed yourself?” or “That is a fabulous job of cleaning your room!” This will make him happy. Never criticise him by saying, “You could have done a better job. It still looks kind of messy." What we are trying to do is to encourage our child to be independent; he can achieve perfection with practice.
Reframe household chores as contributions
Make your child understand that doing household chores is all about contributing to the family. Start by asking your child to do simple chores such as cleaning and arranging the cupboards, helping you set the table for a meal or helping to dry the clothes on the line. Reframing household chores as contributions enable children to develop a sense of responsibility because they look at it as a way of contributing to the family.
Teach them organisation skills
Is there a schedule for homework submissions or a library book that has to be returned on a particular day? Does your child have to follow a timetable for certain activities and subjects? Learning to organise is an important skill-set that will help your child to manage her life as she grows up. So, instead of organising things for your child, ask her what you can do to improve her organisational skills. This will also make her understand that you will not don the rescuer’s hat every time she is in trouble and will begin relying less on you as time goes by.
At the end of the day, we are looking at raising children who will be quick to learn, adapt and work on challenges that life throws at them as they grow up. Your child cannot become self-reliant overnight. It is a long process that may take months and probably years. But you can make the process easy by making him do simple things.
Pratibha Pal is an avid blogger and writes regularly on her eco-parenting blog, www.pratsmusings.com, and her blog on social media, www.socialmediawired.com/blog