Recently a librarian shared a story with me.
In the children’s department of a local library a boy about six years old came up to the desk to check out some books.
The librarian noticed he had a book about the Montreal Canadians. She said: “Oh, they are my favourite team.”
He grinned and he replied, “Me too!”
She told him that many years ago she had seen them play at the Forum in Montreal. His eyes got so big and he just stammered “You did?” He told her his favourite player was Patrick Roy because he was so good.
During this conversation his Mom stood back. The boy had come to the desk with the card on his own, he had a conversation on his own and mom didn’t interfere.
On the face of it, this interaction should not really be worthy of note. But it is, because in too many cases, children are not being allowed to be independent. This includes speaking for themselves.
As parents, it’s our job to expect our children to do as much as they can for themselves as soon as they are capable.
On the typical day kids need to get up in the morning to get ready for the day. In many homes, this requires a lot of activity from parents.
But in fact, kids can wake up to an alarm clock, get themselves out of bed, toileted, washed, teeth brushed and dressed and head into the kitchen for breakfast.
By the time they are 10, they can be actively involved in preparing their lunch.
Mornings can be pleasant if everyone does their share. It simply requires some thinking and planning. It might be helpful for kids to choose their clothing for the next day at bedtime.
Now, if your child is a morning person this won’t work but if he’s groggy first thing having his outfit ready is helpful.
The idea of having kids take charge of their daily routine as soon as they can makes life easier for everyone.
Whether it involves walking, biking or for the older kids, transit, kids benefit from making the trip to school on their own.
Of course, this takes serious training but once they know the route and the rules of the road, they will profit from taking control of this part of their lives.
Thinking back to our opening story, letting kids speak for themselves is another way we allow them to grow and take charge of their lives.
How often have you been in a situation in which you need to fill out a form for your child? And the clerk with the paper looks right at the adult and says: “What’s her name?”
She’s nine years old and is perfectly capable of answering all the questions. So, turn to your daughter and say, you can give her the answers she needs.
In most family friendly restaurants the staff is happy to speak directly to the kids.
Teaching our kids how to negotiate the minefield that is life is our job. And it is a process.
When they are babies it’s easy. We allow them to work through the method of learning how to walk. We have to let them fall down, get up and try again. And over time they become kids who are nimble and running through the house.
We need to use this model throughout their lives so that they learn how to learn, how to move forward, how to slowly become independent adults.
It’s not only a case of letting them go places as they become ready. It’s also a case of letting them do for themselves what they can do even when it takes longer and is frustrating for them and us.
So, standing back while our preschooler dresses herself, having her take her dishes to the kitchen, or expecting her to pick up after herself are all parts of this journey to adulthood.
It’s simply a case of letting and expecting your children to do as much for themselves as soon as they are capable.
Your parent role includes that of teacher, trainer, supporter and coach.
Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert and author of Vive la Différence, Who’s In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home. parentingtoday.ca.
GuidedBy is a community builder and part of the Glacier Media news network. This article originally appeared on a Glacier Media publication.