COVID-19 has brought parents and children of all ages closer together than ever before. Working from home while being parent, teacher, entertainment, psychologist, and a doctor can be overwhelming and exhausting.
Parents are tired. Parents are short-tempered. Parents are at the end of their rope.
How do we move from exhausted to active parents? We teach #independence.
According to a Psychology Today article, the difference between independent children and contingent children is simple. Contingent children are dependent on others for how they feel and think. Independent children believe themselves to be capable and competent themselves.
How do we set our children up for this success?
1. Evaluate: Take stock of your situation. How old is your child? What environment are they in (sibling versus only child)? What age grouping is in the house? What abilities do they have? What are the limitations? How much time do you have to spend on a task? Are you doing more as a parent than is needed? Take honesty inventory of where you are as a family. Make sure all parents are on board. This will fail if one or the other does not support the new plan.
2. Target Priorities: If this is a new change for you, it would be really easy to give all the tasks over to the child right away. I caution you away from this. This will fail. Target your priorities focusing on one thing at a time. A younger child should focus on things like getting dressed on their own (yes, let them pick their own clothes and dress themselves) and brush their teeth. Young elementary should focus on things like cleaning their room and cleaning up their messes. Older children can learn how to do laundry, do the dishes, sweep and mop. (Later this month we will talk more about chores).
3. Forget perfection: You will always do the chores in your house better than your child. You have had years more practice. This is not the time to point out all the flaws and imperfections. Use this as teachable moments. If milk spills, teach how to clean up and remind the child it happens to everyone. They put the dish in the wrong place, remind them where it goes without criticism. The time for constructive criticism is when they have been working on the task and “mastered” it; not while they learn it.
4. Praise Something – but not everything: Teaching responsibility is hard. It is even harder on the child who thinks all a parent does is point out the failings. Praise goes a long way. Authentic appreciation goes a long way. Americans, in particular, believe that we get praised for everything. A trophy for participation. An “A” for effort. But this leads to self-entitlement and arrogance. When we praise everything, praise means less. Praise success. Praise hard work. Those things will get repeated. This positive re-enforcement will help with accountability, responsibility, and follow through as you increase the workload or the difficulty of the task.
5. Circumstance Matters: Sick, tired, stressed affect adults’ quality and production. Expected this from our children too. Let them take a day off if they need it. Help out with a task if they need it. Don’t rush to solve minor problems. Let them problem solve. Give them a chance to figure out a solution. This shows them you have faith in their ability.
Independence is essential to becoming a productive adult. Our job as parents is to raise kids into quality members of society. We will not always be there for our kids. Let’s use this time to teach them they are capable of. Let’s teach them they are confident. Let’s teach them it’s ok to fail, but not quit. Let’s teach them perfection is not the goal – success is the goal.