In addition to creating opportunities to challenge our kids, we need to promote their independence by giving more responsibility and increasing our expectations about what they can do for themselves. Kids in North America have less responsibility than anywhere else in the world and have more trouble maturing than others. We need to close this gap.
This is a bit of a rehash of an earlier point about getting kids doing more for themselves. If your kids know, for example, how to work a smart phone, then they have the skills to work the washing machine. Get them doing their own laundry. Getting ready for school. Packing their own lunch. Running their own bath. Setting the table. Renewing their own car insurance. Register for their own classes. Using their own key to get into the house.
The list is endless. Ideally, you want to give them jobs that they feel useful and successful with. Cooking is a great one – not only are they contributing to the family, there are lots of opportunities to learn about safety, responsibility, and fixing mistakes.
My family loves to travel and from a young age I had my kids packing their own backpacks. Willow packed her own the first time when she was five. She had helped me pack lots of times before and I still gave her a list of things she needed to pack, just in case. I got a “yeah yeah yeah, I know mom” and she excitedly went and packed her suitcase.
Willow packed one pair of socks, one shirt, one pair of pants, and about twenty sun dresses. Even though we were going to the UK at the beginning of spring. So, wet and chilly. And, she failed to pack under wear. And, of most significance, a swim suit. (And yes, she could read the list – she simply chose to not read it and made up her own mind about what she needed). She cried the first night we went to the pool. And complained about the dirty underwear she had to wear. But guess what, she never forgot to pack her swimsuit or underwear again. And, even better, she actually asked my input about what she should pack thereafter.
Same with winter wear. After being frustrated battling my kids to dress warm, one night when we were going tobogganing I simply let them know what the weather was going to be like once the sun went down and what my recommendations were. But, I left them to it. And, sure enough, my eldest didn’t dress warm enough. She got one run in before she complained she was very cold. She ended up sitting in the car, sad to miss out on the fun outside. But, guess what? Next time she asked me what I thought she should wear and actually listened.
Continue to think about the things you are doing for your kids they can do on their own. Even think about the reminders you constantly give them and see which ones you can drop. With every passing day, they can start to do more things and to make their own decisions. And, make their own mistakes.
Establish Consistent Expectations
Part of boosting independence is establishing clear boundaries, consistent routines, and consistent expectations. Whether cleaning dog poop or showing up to school on time every day, consistency is important to help kids cope with the stress in their lives and helps them feel that their lives are predictable and not completely chaotic.
Consistent routines that become habits also helps lay the groundwork for persistence and determination. Even when kids don’t feel like doing something, they learn to get it done, which becomes a habit in and of itself and builds self-control. Having their own set of responsibilities they are accountable for is also part of building resilience.
Work together to brainstorm what structures and expectations need to be put into place.
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