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7 Things You Should Really Let Preschoolers Do on Their Own

Photograph by Twenty20

As a single mom, I’m the first to admit that sometimes I have to count on my kid to take care of her own shit. I just can’t do it all—and the more she handles, the less I have to.

Don't get me wrong, I'm an active and involved mom. But I'm also intent on raising a girl who knows how to do all the things and who is prepared for this great big world I'm sending her out in. Plus, I've learned that letting her take over, even just a little, often means we're both happier. Seriously, it's my greatest parenting trick. Stepping back and letting my kid step up to the plate means less fights and more things getting done. It's a win-win.

Don’t believe me? Here are the things my wee one handles on her own.

1. Medicine

My daughter has juvenile arthritis. That means she needs a chemo shot once a week, which we administer at home. I realized early on that making her a part of that process helped her to feel like she had some control over it. So, while I do the actual shot administering, she chooses where the shot will go (arm, leg or stomach), alcohol swabs the area and prepares the syringe for me by pulling it to the correct number. I, of course, always double check her work—but it's all part of training her to eventually take this task over.

If my kid can help with her shots, I guarantee yours can handle their antibiotics. When my daughter is on other meds, I tend to draw up however much she needs and put it on a table in front of her—letting her know we can't do whatever it is we're doing next (watching a movie/sledding/playing with friends) until she takes the medication. She always handles it within minutes. When it’s not something that's being forced on her, she's a lot more likely to comply.

Why keep having the fights when instead you could be letting them take over?

2. Wiping Themselves

I’ll never forget the disappointment I experienced when I realized that my daughter was fully potty trained at 2 (woo hoo!) but that I still had a lot of butt wiping in my future. Let's be honest, that is one task that requires a fair amount of dexterity to complete in any kind of acceptable fashion.

Lucky for me, my daughter decided she was ready before I did. She stopped telling her teachers at preschool when she’d gone poop and instead started coming home with skid marks in her undies. I knew it was time to teach her. So, we started working on it—really working on it. She would wipe and I would follow up with a check. And by age 3 1/2, she had it.

I never had to wipe a butt besides my own again.

3. Dressing Themselves

I keep my daughter’s clothes somewhere she has access to the options, and I leave the task of choosing her clothes and dressing herself to her every morning. Sure, sometimes that means she goes to school in an Elsa costume—but what do I care? She's dressed and proud of herself for getting the job done, and I didn't have to fight to force some shirt she didn’t want to wear over her head.

4. Deciding What to Eat

Obviously, I'm the one preparing meals in our house, but I refuse to fight with my kid over food. Dinner at our place always consists of a few options—she can have as much or as little of what's on the table as she wants. If she doesn’t eat for some reason, she knows how to get into the veggie drawer in our refrigerator and she knows she's allowed an unlimited supply of carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Seriously, if they are hungry enough, they'll eat. But it's on us to trust them to know how much food they need. That's how kids build a healthy relationship with food.

5. Buckling Car Seats

Sure, it takes longer to wait for a little one to buckle him or herself in. And absolutely, you should always check their work. But this is one where we should be letting them take some responsibility for themselves, even if it means waiting an extra 30 seconds.

In our house, we buckle ourselves. If you can wipe your own butt, you can also get yourself settled in the car.

6. Gauging the Need for a Jacket

We live in Alaska. It’s jacket weather like eight months out of the year here. But my child, with her legit Eskimo blood, is forever convinced she doesn't need one, so I don’t fight her on it. I’ve found that when she gets cold, she'll run back to the car for the jacket that's always there. But, for simply going into the house from the car, or to the car from shopping, she has discovered she's fine. And who am I to question her on that?

I mean, I’m freezing, but I trust her to know what she needs here. With that trust, she's gaining independence.

7. Putting Laundry Away

Mamas, I’m telling you, get your kids on this ASAP. Starting from about age 2, my daughter has been helping to put laundry away. While I still do the hanging, she's in charge of matching and putting away her socks, folding and putting away her pants, and making sure her undies find their home. She also knows where her shoes need to go when we get home and where her backpack should be hung.

I’m raising a child who is capable of taking care of herself. I promise, your preschooler is probably ready for the same. Why keep having the fights when instead you could be letting them take over? Even just a little bit.

They're ready. And you’ve got better things to do than wipe their butts.

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