Saturday, January 21, 2012

Give the Gift of Independence

Our children are more capable than some parents give them credit for. Given the proper instructions, respect and guidance, children are extremely independent.

For example, I make sure their cutlery, plates and cups are at a place they can reach so they can set their own settings, if they like. I have stored the snacks and cereals in a lower cupboard so they can help themselves. Granted, they are at ages (7 and 4) at which they know not to eat chocolate and candy all day. Since they have been eating solids, healthy eating has been a priority so the kids know what they should and should not eat too much of.

In the morning, they are responsible for dressing themselves (we try to lay out clothes the night before, according to school activity.) Clothes are stored in accessible places. They know that they need to be at breakfast by 8:00 or they might be late. By 8:20, they know we have to put on our coats. After meals, they try to remember to take their plates to the sink.

My older one is responsible for practicing her own instruments.  I taught them how to use the microwave safely so they can make their own, warm milk. "Only in these mugs, and for 30 seconds, close the door, press start, and do not stand in front of the microwave. Two hands when you retrieve your mug."

They have helped me dust, vacuum, shovel, rake, wash dishes, wash vegetables, wash rice, wash fruit, cut green beans (with butter knives), mix batter for baking, fold laundry. Mind you, the tasks take longer, and they will make mistakes. But I love how they learn these things and become more confident. One day, I came home from teaching piano (Papa was working at home) and they had set the table for dinner, along with all the food from the fridge which were in tupperwares. "Surprise, Mama!" I took a picture and gave them hugs.

From when they were young, I gave them personal play time, times throughout the day where I told them Mama was going to work on the computer, sew, housework or read a book and they were off on independent play. This, I think, is extremely important. No TV, no video games, not passive playing. Independent active play. I have "stations" throughout the house where they can paint, play dough, read books, crafts, a performing "stage," a piano, a playroom with their favorite princess dolls. They end up playing princess dolls or producing a "show"  most of the time.

I know there is much to teach them, and I am having a good time along the way. I am trying to give them all the tools they need to feel independent and confident about themselves to face the world.

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