I once knew a mom who couldn’t seem to stop talking about how much she loved doing everything for her school-age and older kids.
If they wanted a chocolate milk, she jumped up and made them a chocolate milk. If they needed a bath, she drew the water.
“It makes me feel so good to serve them,” she told me.
Except doing everything for our kids doesn’t, really. Serve them, that is.
We love our kids. But we’re not raising children. We’re raising future adults.
Our ultimate goal: Sending well-adjusted, competent adults out to contribute to the world.
And Mommy (or Daddy) doing everything actively sabotages the chances that kids will be able to take care of themselves when they leave home.
So here are five things your kids could probably be doing themselves.
Granted, sometimes it’s easier to do it yourself than show them how (and correct them later). But it’s worth it in the long run.
Can your kid reach the controls? They’re old enough to do their own laundry. This might take some teeth-gritting on your part. There will be bleeding colors and other laundry disasters. But let the kids learn from mistakes when the stakes (that is, cost of their clothes) are relatively small. And don’t worry much if the folds aren’t up to your standards. It won’t break anything.
Getting to school
“You’re so brave!” People told me that when I bought my kids bikes and sent them to school on their own when they were about 7 and 9. Yeah. Brave. We live in a low-crime neighborhood about a half-mile from the school, and my kids had to cross exactly zero streets.
Guess what? They loved the independence and got exercise twice a day. Not only that, I wasn’t clogging up the drop-off lane at school and emitting pollution (and rage fumes) while I waited for the mom in front of me to finish reading Anna Karenina to the kids in her backseat before she let them out.
Clean their bathroom
It’s their bathroom. It’s their mess. Show them what you expect; check in now and then to make sure basic health codes are followed; and keep the door closed if you have perfection issues.
Can your daughter spread peanut butter on a piece of bread? Can your son pour milk on cereal? Congratulations. You now have two new chefs in the family. Obviously, you should carefully supervise and make sure they learn kitchen-safety skills. But just because they’re small doesn’t mean they can’t learn to use a knife or a stove.
Have you watched “MasterChef Junior”? Kids can cook. And eventually you should expect them to contribute to family meals. My 12-year-old’s signature dish is meatball sandwiches. My 14-year-old makes complete steak dinners. And both make excellent sous chefs when the adults in the house cook.
Manage their own homework
Learning to manage time and assignments is vital to future success at college and the workplace. So don’t micromanage them. Keep an overview, of course. But let them fail if they forget an assignment. And give them the pride of knowing their successes are their own.