Young children love to be able to do things by themselves. Ask any mother of a two year old and she will tell you she has been told many times by her child “I do it” or “Me do it.” The sense of independence that children gain by being able to accomplish easy tasks on their own is tremendous. Think back about your first really exciting accomplishment. It might have been completing a solo in the school play, tying your own shoes or riding your bike. As adults, whatever we can do to help our children feel that great sense of excitement and accomplishment will help drive them to trying harder tasks.
Let’s take eating their own lunch at school. When a child walks through the lunch line, gathering all of the foods on his tray and making it to his seat at his table, this is a major accomplishment. Learning to balance the tray while picking out his favorites at lunch is so exciting. Does your child shout and scream when he gets to the table? NO, but the inner sense of accomplishment, “I made it to the table with no food on the floor” is huge. Other children bring their own lunch to school. Helping your child pack their lunch the night before by learning to open and close their containers makes it much easier at lunch time. Lunch time in schools is a very short period and children need to be successful at opening their containers quickly.
Many times, I hear parents say, “It takes so long to teach those skills.” Yes, this is a valid point. I often hear this comment from parents when I talk about learning to tie one’s own shoes. Most parents might say, “It’s just easier for me to do it.” Take the amount of times you have to tie the shoes of a four year old at 10 seconds each tie for the next four years. That’s over 310 hours over that four-year period. Teaching the task of tying a shoe actually takes less than an hour. Once your child is ready and has the fine motor coordination in her hands, it’s time to teach the skill. Start off by teaching either the bunny ear or the conventional tying method and let your child practice on an old pair of boots or heavy shoes. Once learned, she can move to her own shoes. Your child is guaranteed to be showing everyone her new skills, and mom or dad will have 309 hours of extra time. Therefore, when your child asks for help in doing a task you think she can do herself, take the time to teach her the skill. In the long run, it will make life easier and your child will become more self-sufficient.
Enjoy the beginning of autumn. As always, if you have any questions about child growth and development, feel free to reach out to me.
This article is written in conjunction, by Carol Dores, certified trainer for Positive Discipline, and Anne E. Mead, M.Ed., mother and grandmother, and administrator for Early Childhood Education, Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please call 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.