I understand that kids need boundaries and direction. However I can’t just be this authoritarian ruler. My daughter is now 2-1/2 and she’s really developing her own personality, thoughts, feelings and ideas. Those are important to me and I want her to learn how to handle things. She also wants to do everything herself! Even though she’s 2 – the learning starts now. In fact, many behaviors & thought patterns are learned between birth to 5 by making connection between positive and negative experiences.
Here are 7 things we do in our house to encourage her independence, curiosity and learning.
She gets choices for her breakfast, lunch and snacks. She participates in the dinner decisions too. We ask our spouses what they want for each meal, why not ask our kids too? Granted we don’t just open the floodgate. It’s usually something like “Would you like Cereal or Eggs”. She’s been a great eater…including eating her veggies!
Ever want some chocolate or a small piece of sweets? Feel like you have to sneak them? I do if I’m desperate and wanting more than 1. We keep chocolate covered cranberries on hand as our go to chocolate snack. Usually if I grab a chocolate I will offer her one. She now knows she can only have 1. Funny thing is she always makes sure we ALL get 1 too!
3. Asking for help
There are some things Caitlyn just can’t do on her own. Period. She insists though and gets upset because she can’t do it herself. I get down on her level and we quietly talk about needing help sometimes…that it’s ok to ask. She is getting better at recognizing the difference and will say “Help, please”. Sometimes she’s better at asking for help than me!
There are times when Caitlyn is so upset about something, we’ve tried to work it out and it’s going nowhere. We can’t even understand why she’s upset and we’ve ruled out hurt or illness. We got to a point where we told her that she needed to go in her room and calm down and then come out when she’s better. Now she’s doing it on her own, mostly. Granted she doesn’t stay in there long but when she comes out she tells us “all better”…and truly is. One night she wasn’t and sent herself back to her room. We didn’t have to do it. And another time, I was upset and she knew and understood mommy needed her own time-out.
5. Free play
At our home there is a wealth of things to do both together and on our own. Just like us adults, sometimes she wants to be/play on her own and sometimes she wants company. We try to follow her cues as to which she is needing. She’s pretty good at asking us to go. She’s also pretty good at letting me know (sometimes in a not so nice way) that she needs attention. We are working on a nicer ways of telling us to just “GO” and that she wants some time with us.
Everyone has responsibilities and it’s important to keep our house tidy. One reason is because one of dogs will eat things little things like crayons and the other is because we believe in taking care of our things. On the days I am home with her, we clean the dishes, clean the bathrooms, wash and fold the laundry and she helps in the ways she is able. I’ve heard some advice that “the cleaning will be there, spend time with your kids” – How else are they supposed to learn how to keep a tidy house if we aren’t modeling that behavior in front of them? Is my spotless floor to ceiling? no. Do we spend all day cleaning? No. Life is a balance
7. Helping Us
She loves to be in the kitchen when we are cooking. So when she was old enough and insisted on helping out, we saw it as an opportunity. We had a friend make her a kitchen stool that would be safe for her and be countertop level. It’s been one of the best things we’ve spent our money on! She can stand up there safely, right alongside us and crack eggs, wash her hands, help rinse the dishes. You can tell that she really feels like a part of things and feels good about herself when she’s accomplished something. It’s created a lot of great memories! The eggs are finally going in the bowl instead of on the counter! LOL.
8. Trying New Things
Children are curious beings. Generally, they get into everything you tell them not to and ignore the things you want them to spend the most time on. We’ve found ways of re-directing her towards things that aren’t dangerous while also allowing her the opportunity to try things that may involve a slight fall, scraped knee or food all over the counter… pedaling down the driveway without being a helicopter parent; gradually taking a step back from the climbing portion of her outdoor slide realizing she could indeed do it on her own; letting her crack the eggs in the bowl; carrying something she thinks is heavy; eating a spicy food (mommy always has a glass of milk ready for that one).
I believe teaching independence and responsibilities should start early. The hardest part as a mom is allowing her that room to grow; to try and fail; or to fall down and scrape her knee. However if we never fail as children we won’t learn as adults how to handle failure or things not going 100% perfect. I believe these are the things that it will help her grow into a strong young woman some day (hopefully not too fast) who can stand on her own 2 feet, respect herself, respect others and be kind in the process.