Our primary job as parents is to nurture, comfort, guide….and try to raise our children not to be assholes (you’re welcome, society).
With my first child, I insisted on doing every single little thing for him. If I did it myself it was done right, efficiently, and it saved me the headache of having to do it again (or better yet, having to fix an even bigger mess!). What I realized was, I wasn’t actually TEACHING him. I wasn’t giving him the chance to develop confidence, to make mistakes and to learn necessary life skills.
When my second little dude came along, I learned real quick that I needed HELP…fast!!! I started enlisting the help of my then two-year-old. After all, he was the big brother now. No better time than the present to teach this kid some independence and self-sufficiency.
I have discovered over time that allowing and encouraging my kids to do things for themselves is twofold: It takes some of the pressure off of me to always have to be “on” AND it teaches them that they are able to be independent. Now, does this mean that inevitably I end up having to clean a huge ass mess?! Sometimes, absolutely! But, I am OK with that. They are learning and figuring it out. If I can provide a nurturing and safe platform to facilitate the process, I am totally cool with helping them fix any “mess-ups”.
These suggestions may not work for every family, I totally get that! But, here are just some of the ways I have taught little guys to help themselves:
- Keep child-size plastic cups in a low, accessible kitchen drawer or cabinet. They can help themselves to water when they are thirsty! Two little boys in our house = Non.Stop.Movement! They are always thirsty and I became sick of being their waitress. They know how to get water from the refrigerator dispenser. Win, win!
- Store a toothbrush and toothpaste for each kiddo in both upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. Mornings are hectic in our house. This helps alleviate some of the chaos when it comes time for teeth brushing.
- Keep a dirty clothes hamper on each floor. I tend to find balled-up socks and underwear in every room of my house! Having accessible hampers helps to teach our kiddos where their dirty clothes need to go. (If you have boys, you will thank me for this one)
- Stock an accessible drawer of socks and underwear on the main floor of your home. When they need new socks (since they balled up the last pair and left them in the dining room), they know how to help themselves. When my three-year-old inevitably pees his pants because he doesn’t want to stop playing to use the potty, he knows where to find a change of underwear.
- Keep baby wipes in an accessible kitchen drawer. After snacks, meals or spills they will know right where to go for a quick clean up. This teaches them responsibility and accountability in cleaning up their own messes.
- Leave age-appropriate craft supplies within reach. Now mamas, don’t go leaving scissors and glue (or even crayons and markers) accessible to your two-year-old, or you are just asking for trouble. My boys have access to play-dough, indoor sand, crayons, stickers and paper so they can be creative any time they like. They know the rules… but of course, I am always close by to supervise!
- Provide large, open bins for toy storage. Makes it easier to clean up on their own. Enough said!
The last thing I want is for my kids to grow up lazy or entitled. I want them to take pride in being able to care for themselves, and others! Hopefully their future wives will thank me.