What are you doing for your kids that they could be doing for themselves?

What are you doing for your kids that they could be doing for themselves? This is a question I have been asking myself with a lot more regularity lately. Mainly because I am a little more tired than usual and suffering a few bouts of ‘can’t be bothered’ syndrome. (oh and I’m just coming out the other side of the first trimester of another pregnancy)! To put a positive spin on ordering my kids around a lot more, I figured that there were probably a lot of tasks I was performing that my kids were perfectly capable of undertaking themselves, and thus I was denying them the right to a pathway of greater freedom and independence. Happy to sell it any way I can!

It seems that the shrinking of our families (with some exceptions obviously), the onus of responsibility seems to have fallen with greater weight on to the parents, many of whom see these tasks as simply being “their job”. There are no longer vast numbers of siblings to chip in and help out with younger children and with the general running of a busy household. With another baby on the way, my husband and I have had to increase the number of tasks we allocate to our children purely through necessity. With more children generally comes more tasks, and thus it was imperitive we start turning the tables on our children, or at least get them to lay out the placemats.  The benefits of allocating more tasks to our children is certainly something that all families no matter what their size should consider, not only to take some of the burden away from often already overworked parents, but more importantly to create a self-sufficiency in our kids that will help them build an array of skills and a belief in their own abilities that will help them sustain an independent future.

For many parents it is simply quicker and easier to do certain jobs yourself,  confident in the knowledge that at least it will be done properly the first time around. Whilst this is an easy trap to fall into and one which I too have easily  succumbed, I am now realising the importance of teaching our children how to do certain tasks correctly so that we can all reap the benefits in the long run. With one child having a visual disability, it was always easier for us to do many of his everyday tasks for him until we began to realise that these were all tasks that we were pretty sure he was capable of doing. And yes, they may not always be done perfectly and at times it may be painstakingly slow, but it is certainly a start and he is well on  his way to being far more independent than we probably ever thought he would be.

I remember the excruciation of trying to teach our eldest son to tie his shoelaces. I also recall the frustration of the boys unpacking the dishwasher with the plates and bowls in completely different drawers to where I usually put them. On more than one occasion I had to repack the dishwasher in order for it to close properly.  But the benefits now certainly outweigh those early frustrations, it just takes a bit of patience and persistance!

Obviously the help you get from your children needs to be age appropriate. Even my 18 month old is now given a cloth to clean up spills. Yes I will more than likely have to redo it, but I am hopefully instilling in him even from this young age the importance of cleaning up after yourself! (didnt quite get that done to perfection with the first 3 boys but you can only learn from experience)!

So next time you go to pack your childs lunch in their kinder or school bag, put on their shoes and socks, set the table, make their beds, carry their schoolbag, hat and toy that they insisted on bringing, put their washing in the laundry, put away their clothes, clean up their toys, unpack the dishwasher or any other of the zillion chores we perform, check with yourself whether there are any other able bodies running around that are perfectly poised to chip in and help.

So as a final note…..remember…..the less we do for our children , the closer they move to building on their resilience and resourcefulness ….and the more time we as parents have to sit back and enjoy our families!

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This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Trish@Show and Tell

    Popping in from AMB to check out your blog Martine. I have subscribed as I can’t follow.
    Love your blog! Will be back!


  2. Potsy Mummy

    Also popping over from AMB.
    Great post. I think its great when kids from a young age learn some independence by doing things for themselves.
    All 3 of mine have jobs that are ‘theirs’ and then theres the family jobs we all chip in with.
    Look forward to reading more of your posts.

    1. Martine

      That is great to have their own jobs that they must do and other jobs that they can chip in with no matter whose turn it is! Trying to also get my kids to understand that it will all equal out in the end!

  3. tanya

    Hi and i am your newest follower popping over from AMB as well and just love your blog….my bog is http://zannick.blogspot.com/
    would love u to drop by and check it out……

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  5. Susan, the Book Chook

    This is such an important point, and very well said! Too often I was in a hurry to get to school/work and would do things for my son that he could do himself. In me, I honestly think there was a hint of martyr-complex – oh give it to me, one more burden, kind of thing.

    Welcome to AMB – it’s a great community!

    1. Martine

      Yes there is certainly a bit of the martyr-complex in us all, me included. But now I am finding that it is even more rewarding watching your children competently get these things done on their own. Thanks for your comment and I loved your blog too!

  6. Living the Balanced Life

    My first time here and I love this post! My youngest is about grown, 18 in April, but I learned when my younger 3 were elementary school age to teach them to do more for themselves. They eventually got to where they were doing most of the chores at a time when we were busily self-employed.
    My oldest daughter has 6 kids, ages 10.5 down to 2.5. They all do chores, and they all work together on projects to get them done. Her kids are very resilient and do most things for themselves. Like you said, it gives them more time to enjoy each other. It is no fair for mom and dad to do ALL the work while the kids just play. If they work together and get it all done, then they can all spend time together! And she will definitely have kids whose mates will love them in the future!

    1. Martine

      Thankyou for your comment and kind words. You are obviously a great role model and teacher for your daughter.

  7. Christie-Childhood 101

    In our hurry through modern life we often ignore the long term gain of the short term pain – taking a few moments to show and encourage a child now will usually result in many more future benefits to them and us, then just doing it for them 🙂 Thank you for this important reminder.


  8. Vanessa

    Wise words and gorgeous photos of Louie!!

  9. NayLahKnee

    I actually found your blog through Problogger on twitter. this topic is something that me and my husband have actually argued about and I was the one that wanted to do everything for my daughter until the other day, I asked my daughter to vacuum the floor and she almost started crying (she’s nine). i have been having some rough health issues and just wanted some help (lost a child in december, surgery a week ago for fibroids and NOW sitting in hospital from complications) I knew right then and there I was coddling instead of encouraging independence. thank you for this post!!

    1. Martine

      Thanks for your comment. You certainly sound like you could do with some help so be confident in knowing that both you and your daughter will benefit form her taking on a few more chores. Pretty soon it will become part of her routine. Best of luck and get well soon.

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