My revelation began when Lily was one & half or two years old. I had been doing things for her ever since she was born and it seemed unnatural to stop doing things for her even though she was fully capable of performing simple tasks.
One lazy Saturday, we were getting ready to walk to the park. The stroller was packed to the nines and everything was ready…except for Lily, who had been replaced with a screeching banshee, wriggling away as I tried to strap on her sneakers. “Park!” the banshee shrieked. “Yes, I’m trying to get us ready to go to the park! We need to put your shoes on!” I exclaimed, quickly becoming annoyed. As I listened to her screams, a light bulb went off. Why was I struggling with a two year old? I didn’t really care whether we went to the park or not. The thought of sitting on the couch reading a magazine while she played with her toys was just as fun for me and half the effort! So I stopped. The shrieking stopped too, as she peered up at me with a look of curiosity. “Park?” she whispered. “When you put your shoes on, then we can go to the park,” I calmly responded. I sat down and patiently waited to see what she would do. Much to my amazement, she picked up her shoes, put them on herself and proudly announced, “Shoes! Park!” From that moment on, I vowed not to do anything for my daughter she could do herself.
Now that Lily is almost four, this small and simple rule has extended to every part of our day. She clears her own dishes after a meal, carries her backpack to our car on the way to preschool, opens the fridge and finds a juice box. Sometimes I find myself falling back into the old patterns of doing it myself and have to remind myself to step back. If she needs help, she always asks me. I truly believe that letting our kids try things and experiment and get messy and make mistakes and “do it themselves” creates confidence and instills self-sufficiency. After allowing her the freedom to do so, it has amazed me what she is capable of – and she is not even four yet! Imagine the chores I can make her do in the coming years…
*another version of this entry can be viewed at mamalode.com