Deconstructing another parenting belief

‘That I should do everything for my children’

I’ve come across this parenting belief many times.

I don’t think that anybody would admit to believing that they should do everything for their children…however many parents actually do waaay to much for their children.

I’m wondering if we as a parenting generation do so much more for our kids now than in the past. We seem to have more and more children growing up with mental health problems and self esteem problems.

I admit this can be me too from time to time, as I mindlessly go from household task to task without actually thinking consciously about what the kids may need to learn through doing many of these things themselves. If I’m not careful my own impatience can tends to play a big part in this, as well as the usual battle that may arise from time to time when you try to enforce some tasks.

Avoidance of battles! Wow, that’s another whole topic right there isn’t it!

Over time, as they have grown, I have managed to ensure that as much as possible I do not do things for my kids that they can do for themselves.

As long as I also sometimes get to do things for them that makes them feel ‘mothered’, and me feel like a mother! I sometimes just let them know that I will make their beds today, and they love it (as I would if someone offered to make mine!).

But I do admit that I buttered my youngest child’s toast until he was well past 5 years old, in fact probably approaching 8 years old! I knew I shouldn’t be doing it but he knew how to get around me!

Not doing everything for your kids means they do many of the things that Mum/parent may normally do, like:

Tying their own shoe laces

Doing their own hair

Making their own beds

Changing the sheets on their own beds

Cleaning their own rooms

Tidying their own cupboards and clothes drawers

Unpacking their own schoolbags and putting them away after school

Making their own school lunches

Putting their laundry in the laundry basket

However, there is a few points here to remember.

It needs to be age appropriate. Ie: a kindergarten child may not necessarily be able to make their own lunch or put up her own hair if it is long.

It needs to be balanced. Not too much and not too little. Play and quiet time is also important. Not every moment needs to be a teachable one!

It needs to be acknowledged rather than praised. What’s the difference, you may ask? That can be rather complex as it is also age and stage dependent, but in general would be considered like this;

“Good job thanks” vs a “Wow! What a great job you did! You are sooooo clever!!” I’m sure you get the idea!

The point is that you partly need to act like it’s not such a big deal as you knew they were capable of it. Showing a sense of trust in your child’s capability is important.

I think it’s a good idea to look at all the things you do around the house from time to time and consider whether the kids do enough.

Consider whether you do too much for them. Whether there are things that they should or could do that would help them learn…and help you!

It is vitally important for children to have a sense of their own capabilities as this helps their self esteem and self worth. This along with helping with household jobs gives them a sense of contribution and belonging which also helps children’s development towards a good self-esteem and sense of themselves as valuable members of the family.

The more you do for them that which they can do themselves, the more you take away from them the vital sense of their own competence.

No matter how much they might moan and whinge about it, you know this is what they need…and that is your job as a parent.

My tip would be not to make it a surprise and not to  make it too much or too little. Perhaps start with something you know they like doing. Talk to them about it beforehand – “from now on I think you can butter your own toast as you are big enough. I’ll show you and then you do it”.

Be patient and don’t expect it to just be accepted, there might be a fight, whinge, cry, reverting to babyishness, or all of the above!

Choose little things like running their own bath (keep an eye on it though!) and buying their own ice-cream, buttering their own toast in the morning, or doing their own hair.

Engage them in participating in it from the start so that they take ownership and it isn’t just something external that is imposed on them.

But more than just jobs and household tasks, is the idea that they do things for themselves. These are things like tying shoelaces, putting school bags away – or even carrying their own bags as I have seen so many parents carrying school bags for their kids.

So, think about some tasks that they can age appropriately be responsible for, make sure they can be successful, teach them the steps if they don’t know how and watch them complete it a few times before leaving them to do it unsupervised. Give good feedback and acknowledgement.

If you do these things and shed this myth of doing everything for your kids, you can watch them grow into competent little people who know how to do things for themselves and feel proud for doing it!

You might even find they start offering to do things for you!!


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