As I sat in a parent-teacher conference at my toddler's
preschool last fall, his teacher reminded me how much he is actually capable
"Let him put on his shoes, take off his coat without help, make sure his
lunch goes to school with him," the teacher said. While I thought
I was just getting us out the door on time, I was unknowingly telling my son
that he wasn't good enough and just couldn't do these things. I was taking his
ownership of certain tasks away from him. It was eye-opening, and I began to
think of other ways I could empower my younger son, in many of the same ways I
already empower my older son who is 6.
Chores were the easiest way to give both of my boys a little
self-esteem boost. They are constantly asking to help me vacuum, wash dishes and empty the dishwasher.
[B]oth my boys are learning to take ownership of their possessions and actions in ways that kids much older still haven't figured out.
The mom in me was internally screaming, "No
way! You will make more of a mess than I want to deal with. You are more of a
hinderance than a help."
But the "teacher" side of my brain, which I have to continually
activate and encourage, said, "Sure. Let's try this."
My oldest started putting the clean silverware away
after the dishwasher ran. My youngest was suddenly in charge of clearing his
dishes from the table after every meal—just like his big brother had been doing. I started letting my little guy "wash" the
dishes. He happily stood at the sink, scrubbing away. Yes, I had to go in after
him to clean everything, but he was happy and he was helping in his own way. My
boys started to cook with me. They had to clean up their toys every night, instead of leaving it for their dad or me to do. They had to put away their dirty clothes, not leave them on the
floor just wherever in the house.
Our chore list isn't extensive, and it isn't insane given
their ages. But both my boys are learning to take ownership of their possessions
and actions in ways that kids much older still haven't figured out. My kids
want a snack? OK, go get one. Can't find a toy? Go clean your room. I promise
it is in there somewhere. Forgot your lunch at home? Well, why didn't you grab
it before you left the house?
Dropping my son off at preschool still fascinates me. The
things he will do for his teacher he tries very hard not to do for me. We still
fight over who will put on his shoes, or why his lunch didn't make it to the
car. Between his teacher and me, we are slowly empowering my toddler to do a
little more, take care of himself in normal, age-appropriate ways (get dressed,
go potty, put shoes on without a tantrum).
It does add more time to our
morning routine, but I can't put my son's shoes on forever and, one day, he will
go off to college. I need to know he can wash dishes and clean up after
Soon I'll start letting my oldest help me with the laundry. Little
things and baby steps to helping my little boys turn into functioning men.