Challenge the kids to think for themselves

I am constantly challenged with the never-ending reminding that is required of small children to accomplish simple tasks.

I often hear myself say things over and over again that I have to remind myself not to become a nag.

I also do not want to repeat myself. Sometimes, saying something twice is inevitable, but unless there’s a hearing problem involved, I do not see a reason to say something more than once, particularly not if the kids know what is expected of them at that moment.

Take the morning routine. I often find myself reminding the 5yo to get dressed. To keep eating breakfast and not dilly dally. To put his shoes/jacket on. I say it like it’s an order, but herein lays my challenge. Why should I have to bark orders at these kids? This isn’t training them to think for themselves.

I want the kids to learn some independence, and be accountable and responsible for themselves and their stuff. This is a learning process, no doubt, but there’s not better time than right now to start.

Over the last month of summer, we’ve adjusted our parenting style. We’ve had some unruly, even rude behaviour, and the kids were driving us up the proverbial wall. We tried a few attempts to schedule them and outline a more strict routine, which backfired badly. So I cried to my friend, and she gave me some tips that I applied with almost immediate results.

Good results. The change in the children, not to mention the dynamic within our family unit, has been positive and much more pleasant. Not only do they take care of their own pjs or laundry (in terms of folding them, or putting them in the hamper), they also help set, and clear the table, all without a word from us. They participate in the family without a list of orders for them to follow, they do not consult a chores chart, and they do not get stickers or bribes for positive behaviour.

It works, the way we changed the way we live.

But. Of course there is a but.

It’s so easy to slip back into the old habits, particularly when there are other things going on in life that are distracting and tiring. Suddenly I find myself repeating myself, lashing out at them for not listening to me the first time I say something, getting distracted by my own thing and losing track of their behaviour, and before I knew what was happening I turned back into a drill sergeant.

So now I take a deep breath and go back to challenging my kids to think for themselves. Why should I nag them to get dressed? Their clothes are on the bed, laid out the night before:

Instead of saying:

Benjamin, get dressed now!

I could say:

Benjamin, we’re leaving in X minutes, what do you still need to do before we leave for school?

It’s actually pretty amazing what he remembers when challenged to think for himself.

Instead of saying:

Benjamin, you forgot your knapsack.

Say this:

Benjamin, do you have everything you need before I lock the door?

Note to self: apply the same tactic to the almost 3yo. She is pretty much on the ball with this stuff anyway, why let her slack off?




2 thoughts on “Challenge the kids to think for themselves

  1. Great thoughts… I find myself doing the exact same thing in the morning with my almost 5 year old. And the other day, my 3 year old “baby” surprised me by getting out of his pajamas and dressed all on his own without me saying anything; he was so proud.

    I’m going to test this out. I know they can do it, and I know they love a challenge.

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