Wednesday, July 17, 2024
The Parents' Voice

When to stop helping

by Shelley Heaphy

Say what? Stop helping? Isn’t it true that we help our kids a lot - with practically everything? Now I don’t mean helping them by cooking supper, because lets face it we’re not getting rid of that chore for a while, but more like helping them clean up their toys, helping them make their bed/clean their room, do the laundry, put away clothes, set the table, get dressed/choose clothing, do their hair . . . when’s the last time your eight-year - old emptied the garbage in the house? I think sometimes we forget the way we were raised. Our generation and most definitely the generation before us had many responsibilities around the house - they helped keep the home what it was. Maybe we need to be told we’re allowed to have them help out around the house. It’s good for them to not have everything handed to them.
Parenting in our generation has changed in quite a lot of ways. We’ve become parents that hover and are extremely protective of our little ones. We worry we may be asking too much of them, we want to protect them from hurting themselves, making mistakes, being too tired, choosing the wrong friends, falling in the mud, climbing too high, we want to be “perfect”. These days I think we worry so much about making sure we do the right thing that we forget some of the basic skills that our children need to learn. They do still need to be told what to do, they still need to follow rules and they need to learn how to fail. Food for thought – aren’t we doing them a true disservice if we send them out into the world having always won and never having had to do anything on their own? Is that real life?
When we think about how to stop helping our children we must consider two different kinds of helping. There’s good help which ables your child. This is when we teach and guide them on how to accomplish task. Tasks like choosing their clothes, brushing their hair, putting away their clothes, placing the shoes and emptying their school bag are all things that children need to be taught to do before being able to be done on their own. Learning basic developmental tasks at an age appropriate time are a great stepping-stone to independence. It’s a really great start for them to be someday taking care of their own homes, it’s helping them learn time management, teaching them how to set priorities and what responsibility means.
On the other hand, the bad help disables your child. An example of this is when you don’t reinforce tidying up. The thought process may be, “they’ve already left the room I’ll just put the toys away”, or “urg I don’t feel like arguing with them”. The thing is, we’ve allowed them to enjoy the toys, play with the toys and then skimp out on actually putting them away. What about teaching them respect of their belongings, or how to help out in their home? Teach and help them put away their toys so that they can learn how to do so on their own. Another example might be dressing them when they are capable of doing so on their own. Yes it saves time, and can be less frustrating but what about when they’re in a class of 20 children and need to change their clothes on their own? They will go off to daycare or school and be expected to achieve these things on their own; it’s a disservice to them if we are doing it for them when we should be teaching them how to do it on their own.
There are so many ways to slowly start teaching them independence whilst you relinquishing the control. Sometimes we truly don’t want to give them this independence because it means our babies are growing up, and when it’s your last or only child it is really hard to let go, but when you sit back and think about it it’s for the best to have them prepared. Not to mention the fulfillment they receive each time they learn a new skill.
Now, where to start!?! With very young kids you can have them start out with putting on their jacket (look up the jacket flip trick), boots or shoes and hats to go outside and feeding themselves with a utensil. You can teach them to tidy up a toy before starting with a new toy, or just tidying up when they’ve finished playing. As they get older, you can teach them how to brush their hair/teeth, how to wash their face, how to check their face in the mirror, how to set the table, make their bed, care for themselves. As they get older you can add more skills to the list of things they can do on their own. There are small and big things that can help them feel independent and accomplished as they get older, you just have to remember to model and teach them what you want them to be able to do on their own, thereby ableing them to do it on their own.
*This year we are bringing Touch-a-truck back to Shawville if you’re interested in bringing a truck please email us at


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