To say I'm independent would be an understatement. My mom says I could have lived alone at the age of two if someone would've brought me groceries, or rigged up a car I could physically drive. So maybe that's why I tend to value independence in my own children a little more than your average bear. Several times, people have offered to clear my kids' dishes when the counter is a little high or the trash can hard to find and I'm not helping. I'm sure people at the school where I work think it's harsh that I won't take Reed his coat if he leaves it in my classroom after the bell rings. What would he do if he left it at home? Freeze? Well, then that's what he'll do! I've always firmly believed that you should never do for a child what they can do for themselves. And when the kids were young, that was a LOT of extra work. Eighteen month olds can't often clear their dishes without dropping and dribbling. And ohmygoodness! It takes F-O-R-E-E-E-E-E-V-E-R for toddlers to dress themselves.
But now that my kids are older, I'm learning that this independence thing is actually pretty genius, because I do very little for my kids anymore! Give a child breakfast and he'll eat for a day, but teach a child to use the toaster and you can be a lazy butt and sleep in!
Our big kids get up, get dressed, brush teeth, and fix as much of their breakfast as they can before they ask for help. The biggun can pour milk if it's getting low. They clear their dishes and do "electricity patrol" before we leave the house. They carry our their own "supplies" for wherever we're going and buckle their own seat belts. They pick up all their own toys before going to bed. They have chores (emptying majority of the dishwasher, putting all clean shirts on hangers, emptying bathroom trash) and get an allowance for them, but they also know that they will be expected to do other things when we ask. We rarely spend our money on them when we're shopping. If they want something, it comes out of their allowance.
Without my asking that often, they've also sort of taken responsibility for Max. They'll juice up his toothbrush for him, help him find his shoes, zip up his coat, and open the fridge so he can put up his cup. He, also, has started doing things own his own simply because big brothers are doing them. He loves to jump in and help empty the dishwasher. We're still working on the toy thing, though...
See what I mean? Being "mean" and making your kids struggle to do things that are difficult at first actually saves a lot of effort in the long run. And I don't think our kids really suffer for it. They seem to take all their duties in stride. Sure, we get our fair share of whining, but a lot of times, they just do it, because they know they're not going to get out of it.
There is a downside, though. When you let your five-year-old dress himself, these are the types of outfits you wind up with:
- black dress socks with brown sandals on a hike
- Mom's black knee highs bunched around ankles with tennies
- John Deere boots with shorts to church
- navy blue shirt, black shorts, and mismatched socks
- and many more