Before I had surgery that took me off my feet, I wondered sometimes how my kids would survive in the world. It was evident that they were capable of doing many things, but do those things they did not.
I’ll jump in and take almost full responsibility here.
To move things along in the morning (and in the evening, and throughout the day), I made their breakfast, packed their lunches, packed their school bags, practically dressed them, guided them through with repeated instruction the process of brushing their teeth, washing their faces, and going to the bathroom.
I would talk to my husband constantly about how capable the kids were but how they just wouldn’t do it themselves.
And then there were those golden times when I had some miraculously unending stream of patience and a bright and cheery disposition to go along with it. I would step back and watch my kids blossom into their permitted independence.
Then life would take over and we’d be back to me following them around and
hounding reminding them about getting ready for school, their chores, picking up after themselves, helping out around the house, etc.
But all that had to change. And we were facing a deadline for that change: My late summer surgery date.
Having that deadline changed things for me. I wasn’t going to be able to do half of what I usually could for myself, let alone for my kids. So, I needed to figure it out. And the impending surgery gave my kids something to shoot for.
So we began summer training. I did my best to keep my comments to myself when I saw one of my kids doing something their way instead of mine. And I made sure to build in lots of time for everything I was asking them to do. That way, there was less chance that I would get frustrated with their slower pace because time was not bearing down on us.
I created space for my kids to grow their independence; like planting a seed, watering it and watching it develop into a beautiful flower.
And they grew. They did chores, they got themselves ready, they prepared basic meals. (Cereal and sandwiches, mostly.) By the end of the summer, we had reached what I had hoped for most but had not dared to set as an achievable goal: my kids recognized when help was needed and they stepped in to provide that help.
Of course you want your kids to help and to be able to take care of themselves doing age-appropriate chores and tasks, but I think, ultimately, you want them to learn more from doing chores than just how to do the chores. You want them to recognize and anticipate needs and to do their best to help fulfill those needs.
I’ve been off my feet now for six weeks. Though sometimes my kids still fight me on getting dressed in the morning or getting ready for bed at night (hey, let’s not hold our kids to impossible standards; even adults don’t always want to do chores), in that summer of training with a patient mother (even when she didn’t want to be), they learned how to help with anything. And they learned that they mattered because their abilities were valued.
Sometimes we still slip, though, so tell me, how do you get your kids to take responsibility and help around the house?