There may be days when you wonder whether your middle-schooler will ever be independent.
Will he be 35 and still incapable of remembering to put the toilet seat down?
Will you still be delivering her forgotten lunches when she works as a corporate lawyer in her 40’s?
Surely at least one sock will eventually make it into the dirty clothes hamper… right?
There are so many life skills we have to teach our children before they leave us to become adults. Providing the structure and safe place for them to practice (and even fail) while they develop this ability is vital for their long-term development.
Here are some ways to help and encourage them to take the initiative to cultivate their independence.
Build Your Toolbox
Timers – Timers are great way to help your kids be responsible, for smaller tasks that needed to do in an hour or less. If you have given them a phone, have them use the timer function. In the beginning, set yours for the same time so you can be sure they are responding when it goes off. There are inexpensive digital kitchen timers available in many stores and online. You can even find them at some local stores.
Most ovens also have a built-in timer function that you can use without turning on the heating element. Even an analog ‘egg timer’ that ticks the seconds and minutes away can be helpful as the sound itself may remind your child to remain focused on his task.
Paper Calendars and Personal Planners – For longer-term projects and appointments, do not underestimate the usefulness of calendars and planners. This tools can help you make your kids take responsibilities for themselves.
If you still don’t have it, add a family calendar in a prominent place where everyone can access it. Expect each family member to be responsible for adding all of their own events on the color chosen that is assigned to them. The act of writing it down ties them to that responsibility.
In addition to the larger family calendar, equipped everyone with smaller personal planners. Have informal planning parties where you share snacks or have a game night once a month after spending a little time looking at the weeks ahead and updating all your planners.
If your child is particularly artistic or enjoys crafting, you might even consider doing bullet journaling together. Its a way of planning that makes calendars and checklists very personalized and emphasizes a healthy outlet for creativity.
Checklists – When a task seems monumental, people often freeze, avoiding the task completely rather than approaching it with a well-formed plan. Checklists are particularly handy for breaking down responsibilities into smaller, more manageable portions that will provide them a quicker sense of accomplishment, leading them to increase productivity. This will help your kids on this responsibility-training time.
Consider combining a checklist with a calendar or planner, especially for school projects or other long-term goals, spacing the smaller goals of the project into bite-sized, easily-managed chunks.
Chore and Sticker Charts – If your child needs help to remember weekly or daily routines, you may want to use sticker charts. This will be a helpful tool to make them responsible, especially when they already used it when they were younger.
Any chart will do, but basically, you’ll need a column for the name of the activity or chore and a place to physically check off the completed activities each day of the week. Don’t require them to actually use stickers, but note that many kids this age (and a lot older) secretly love the nostalgia of stickers, so have some small ones on hand just in case.
Take It Slow and Be Consistent
Once you have decided on a method, set up a system together. Oversee it for several weeks, being sure you both agree on what the successfully completed task should look like.
When they seem to understand and are able to handle the task without your guidance, give them the opportunity to practice without your help, backing off slowly. The key here is to gradually expecting him or her to take the lead more and more until it is fully their responsibility.
When you see that the habit has been fully established, you can check it every week, then every few weeks, and every few months just to make sure they are really maintaining the habit of keeping track of their own responsibilities.
Throughout the process, consistency is key. Don’t tell them they are responsible to pick up after themselves, then follow them around doing it for them. Once you’ve established that it’s their responsibility, there should be a natural consequence if they fail to do it.
For example, returning to the socks in the hamper issue, if they continue leaving their socks everywhere, they will eventually run out of clean socks and have to either wear dirty ones or go without for the day.
Play the role of Coach
There are life skills we sometimes assume that our kids would picked up from us, but you shouldn’t assume your child knows to do anything you haven’t intentionally taught them. In fact, it’s likely you will have to teach them new skills more than once.
Finally, your role as the coach is to ask thought-provoking questions and reinforce good behaviors.
Here are some questions you can start to use immediately:
- Are you proud of the way you responded to that?
- What would you do differently if you could do that over?
- How do you think your actions made Sally feel?
- Do you feel good about how you handled that?
- How did you handle the situation?
Comments that inspire responsible behaviors like:
- I love who you are becoming.
- You owned that like a boss.
- Great job stepping up today.
- You are a responsible kid.
- You are really good at …..
For most children learning responsibility is something they need to learn, just like riding a bike. A few things to keep in mind when teaching responsibility: give them the tools to be successful, be patient and consistent, and coach them. Ultimately your voice as a parent becomes their inner voice. Remember to use positive words when they show ownership and responsibility as you will continue to see those responsible behaviors and actions. Give them the tools to be successful and the inspiration to grow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leslie is the ‘mom behind the keyboard at Super Mom Picks, a parenting tips, ideas, and product reviews blog. She is a full-time working mom who has a passion for improving her family’s health, happiness, intellect, and overall quality of life experiences.
Written By: Tamra Cater
Do you ever think about this? How we, the parents, can connect to our children?
Sometimes I get so busy I feel guilty that I haven’t paid enough attention to my daughter or connected with her enough. However, there are always times throughout the day that I can find simple ways to emotionally connect with her. This can even be something as small as a hug or a kiss on the head. But, it’s important to me that I continually try to make a connection with my daughter. I love her and care about her, so I want her to feel that love. I don’t want her to ever feel like she has to “assume” that I love her. I want her to know it through my actions and words.
When I was growing up, I think my parents assumed that I knew that they loved me. However, it didn’t always feel that way, because they didn’t always go out of their way to say “I love you” or to give me that hug. And as I mentioned in one of my blog posts (http://www.nurturingtamra.com/how-parenting-impacts-a-childs-self-esteem/), it’s more important what the child feels and experiences in terms of that connection and feeling of love. If a child feels connected with their parents, it’s more likely that they will have higher levels of self-esteem than someone who doesn’t feel that way. So as parents, how can we all do a better job connecting with our children?
Why is Connection so Important?
We truly wanted those times where we feel emotionally bonded with our children, but what sorts of benefits does it have for the parent/child relationship as a whole? When children feel connected with their parents, they are more likely to cooperate and listen to parents. In addition, when we give our children positive attention, this helps them feel valued and builds a positive self-image. Last of all, connecting with our children is important so that children feel reassured and safe.
So what are some simple but amazing things that you can do throughout the day to connect with your children?
10 Simple But Amazing Tips for Connecting with Your Children
1.Cook or bake. This is something that my child truly seems to enjoy doing with me. I let her pour the ingredients in the bowl and help me mix the ingredients together. And you can tell by the way she talks, that she is truly enjoying it.
2. Play Chase. For some reason, this brings my daughter to laughter every time. We will run around the house, taking turns chasing each other. In my next point, I explain how laughter helps increase our connection with our children.
3. Be silly and do things to encourage laughter. For example, I “make raspberries” on my daughter’s belly, and again, she laughs a ton! Laughter releases stress-reducing hormones in our body and improves mood. Research shows that families with stronger relationships tend to laugh together more. So, laughter is such a good thing for our relationships with our children!
4. Explore a new place together. It’s always fun to go to a new park or to a new store. For example, when I first took my daughter to the zoo when she was old enough to understand what she was looking at, this was awe-inspiring for her. I enjoyed seeing how happy and excited she was! These new experiences help build memories and a stronger bond between our children and us.
5. Play with your child. This could involve putting a puzzle together or painting. As another example, recently, I was making sensory bottles with my child, and she had a blast! She got to help put the beads in the bottles. We also enjoy playing with blocks together by making “castles” and “houses.” In doing this, this helps our children feel valued and loved when they get attention and affection from us. This is such a simple way to make a connection with our children!
6. No matter how young or how old your child is, talk to them. For example, with my child, I do what I can do ask her if she had fun after she went to school and what she liked about it. I also ask her about things she likes, such as what her favorite color is. Also, when I was teenager, one thing I enjoyed most was having long conversations with mom until the sun came up. I truly felt connected to her then.
7. Put the phone down and actively listen and pay attention. This is something that I admit I need to better with. When your daughter is trying to play or talk to you, keep the phone out of reach and just focus on the “here and now.” This helps your child feel valuable and important. Listen to what your child is saying and feeling and be empathetic. Validate their feelings.
8. Read to your child. I absolutely love sitting down with my child in my lap and reading to her. This is one of those times where I truly feel connected to her. This is another type of experience that can build memories and stronger relationships!
9. Sing or dance with your child. This is something that my child LOVES! While I feel like I look ridiculous dancing or sound horrible when I sing, I love doing this with my child. I feel like this is another way I can connect and bond with her. Related to this, I think this helps encourage her interests in singing or dancing if I participate and help support her in what she enjoys.
10. Give your child a hug and smile at them. Who doesn’t love hugs and feel more connected with when we get hugs? I think the same thing goes for children. Hugs and smiles help our body release stress-releasing hormones, so we feel good in the end!
Final Thoughts on Connecting with Your Child
We live in a technology-driven world, and there are lots of people on social media. We are also busy with our jobs, household chores, making dinner, etc. However, the best moments are likely those times where we connect with our children and our family. I know that I love these moments and will always hold on to them. These are things that will never be forgotten. So, I think making time to connect with our children even in our busy lives is so important for everyone involved! As mentioned, our children are more likely to listen to us and follow our direction if they feel a strong connection with us. And it also makes us feel good knowing that we have a strong relationship with our children. Do have your own tips on how to connect to your children? Share us here!
Laughter: Nature’s medicine for family relationships. Retrieved from https://www.acpeds.org/laughter-natures-medicine-for-family-relationships.
Positive attention and your child. Retrieved from https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/connecting-communicating/connecting/positive-attention
About The Author: Tamra Cater is a mother of a 3-year-old daughter and wife to a football coach. She is a professor that teaches a lot of developmental psychology classes and loves sharing her knowledge of child development with others! You can find her blog at www.nurturingtamra.com.