Years ago I heard someone say that you are robbing your kids when you do things for them that they can do themselves. In all my years working with children and teens I have found this to be a true statement. Keep in mind that children want to please us, they want to be helpful and they want to feel useful. It’s never too early to teach self reliance to your children.
I have very strong and happy memories of standing on a chair next to my mother in the kitchen helping her to prepare dinner, bake or help with the dishes. She would let me stir whatever was in the bowl and put the spoon in the sink. I put the chopped vegetables into the salad bowl, or filled the muffin cups or some other small chore. She would ask me if I wanted to put the clean dishes in the drainer after she washed them, and when I got older, I got to dry the dishes, and when I learned how to do it properly, I was allowed to wash the dishes.
I recall feeling so grown up and was so proud of my accomplishments. My mother would always ask me if I wanted to help her rather than tell me I had to do something, even when I was a teenager, I was asked if I wanted to help; I always did want to help my mother. That is true discipline. Discipline is to teach; it is preventive and it is future oriented, meaning that you want your children to learn how to think for themselves and be responsible for themselves in the future when they find themselves in similar situations.
In this manner, my mother taught me about kitchen hygiene, organization, time management, awareness of hazards in the kitchen, how to cook and bake and so many other things. I loved to go the grocery store with her. I learned comparison shopping, how to choose the right size box or can, how to pick ripe fruit and the best vegetables. It was my job to find the brands she was looking for and when I could reach it, I could take it off the shelf and put it the shopping cart.
Helping my mother was a wonderful experience that I always looked forward to. More than feeling a sense of accomplishment, I got to spend quality time with her and learn from her. Those are some of my most precious childhood memories.
Give your children the opportunity to learn from you by inviting them to be your helper. Don’t just push chores onto them and expect them to be happy or learn much, and don’t do for them what they can do for themselves. Are you going to continue doing their laundry when they are grown? Are you going to prepare meals for them when they move away from home? If they don’t learn when they are young and at home with you, when will they learn and who will teach them?
This is about an attitude and decision on your part as the parent or caregiver. If you don’t already do these things with your children, then change your approach, adjust your attitude about it and become the teacher, mentor, and coach they need you to be. This is positive, stress free discipline at its best.