There's a new commercial on TV for Cheerios® where the little girl keeps saying "that's for babies" on everything her parents show her (until it gets to the cereal). It reminded me how quickly our children think they are growing up; often before we are ready for them to be so independent. I know as a parent, I wanted to raise a child to be an independent, self-sufficient adult. But along the way, I had a hard time letting her grow up. I remember her wanting to drive the car at 2 and telling me "I am all grown up now" somewhere around 8 or 9.
Around 2 years old, children usually start to exert their independence (thus the terrible twos). They want to do things by themselves, but it takes them a long time and requires a lot of patience from the parents. My daughter started picking her own clothes (however mismatched) and dressing herself right round around this age. It meant that getting out of the house to go to work now took three times longer than before. I'm not a morning person, but to accommodate her independence, I would get up earlier in the morning to get my things done so I would have time to help her get ready. Eventually, we got into a routine that allowed us to get ready more independently and the morning wasn't quite so long.
Helping children exert their independence can be frustrating and time consuming. Here are a few suggestions that I've found worked for me as my daughter was growing up. I'm sure you will be able to add some others that work for you.
Lay out clothes the night before. The child can still choose the clothes, but it cuts down on the struggle in the morning deciding what outfit to wear and attempting to get him to choose a matching outfit. All those discussions happen the night before when you are less rushed.
Pour cereal in a bowl and place on the kitchen table with a paper plate on top and a small pitcher of milk in the refrigerator. In the morning, the child can get breakfast
all by herself.
Have appropriate snacks on low shelves. I used to keep small containers of fruit on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator. She could get those whenever she wanted without my assistance.
Hanging jackets and sweaters on a low hook allows the child to get ready to leave the house all by himself.
Have some household chores assigned to the child. Young children can fold towels and wash clothes. My daughter loved helping me with the laundry. I'd hand her the clothes from the washer and she'd put it in the dryer. Then she would pull everything out of the dryer and into the laundry basket.
Make the child responsible for his toys. You can always help if there's a lot to clean, but a child will develop pride in his room if he is responsible for keeping it neat (even though it might not seem like it sometimes). A technique I used that seemed to help was to sit in my daughter's room and tell her a category of things to pick up. For instance, first pick up all the clothes. Now pick up the stuffed animals. This breaks it down into smaller tasks and it will be less overwhelming for the child.
As a parent, I know it's sometimes easier to do it for the child than take the time to let her do it by herself. And there were times I just had to do it and try to explain that next time you can do it. Encouraging the child's independence can be hard at first, but also rewarding as you watch your child grow into a beautiful adult.
Children develop best in an environment of order and consistency. They are happier when they know what to expect. To a young child, a predictable world is a safe world.
By setting up regular, reliable times and procedures for daily events, parents and teachers provide a dependable environment. Routines also help avoid the power struggles that so often occur between adults and children.
You'll find life with your child goes more smoothly if you set up and consistently carry out regular routines such as bedtime, wake-up times, mealtimes, chore times, playtime, and homework times. It might help to have a list of the sequence of daily events posted where your child can refer to it as necessary (for example, at bedtime – put on pajamas, brush teeth, read story). Use simple drawings on the schedule to facilitate young children's understanding (kids love to help with such drawings).
Of course, some changes in schedules and routines are unavoidable. While children prefer routine, they are resilient enough when a familiar routine has to be disturbed.
There are two basic points to remember:
Be consistent. Children are the most content when the same thing happens at pretty much the same time every day.
Explain deviations from the routine. If you have to change your plans, let your child know ahead of time, if possible, and explain the situation and change you are making.
Taken from Deborah Diffily and Kathy Morrison, e. (1997). Family-Friendly Communication for Early Childhood Programs. Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
We would like to thank Linda Harrison from MGRRE (Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education) for sharing materials to make our exploration of rocks even more exciting.
We would also like to thank members of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra for visiting with their instruments to let the children get an up-close and personal view of how music is made.
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