The ongoing pressure of being a parent is hard. It is super hard. The choices we as parents and caregivers make now will have an impact on the rest of our children’s lives.
Today, young children are growing up in a society where they will likely depend on computers, cell phones and tablets far more than any of us have had to in our lifetime. Children are exposed to a litany of games, tasks, apps, communication techniques and other ways to make their life “easier.” But will these devices actually make their lives easier? I recommend setting boundaries around expectations for electronics and household tasks early, while encouraging independence whenever reasonable and possible.
Caregivers can choose to keep screen time to a minimum for their young children, for example, not capitulating to the pressure of giving a cell phone to a pre-teen or youngster too soon.
This includes not giving in to allowing a cellphone in your child’s bedroom, which would distract them from their routine and life in general. Or, not giving in to the mounting pressure of letting a child play Call of Duty, because your child might say, “My friend gets to play that.”
By the way, that was my son’s favorite phrase. My favorite comeback?
“His mom is nicer than yours.”
It is imperative that we teach young children how to communicate with each other without devices. Teach your child how to ask for what they need, allow them to order in a restaurant and have conversations at the dinner table. Be the example by putting your device down and starting a dialogue.
Children are capable of much more than we give them credit for. When was the last time you let your child be bored when they said they were bored? Instead, hold back from making suggestions about what they could do. We, as parents and caregivers, have to believe our children are capable of finding ways to occupy themselves. Doing so fosters independence and imagination.
From as young as 18-24 months, children are capable of learning simple chores. Tasks like recycling, putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket, picking up toys and dusting are simple chores that children can learn early. They are smart little people. Small brooms in their size are an excellent way for children to mimic their parents and be able to help with small messes.
Let your child try to put their own shoes on any chance they get. This skill is awesome once they have mastered it, even though it can be frustrating at first, especially when you’re trying to get someplace.
Ask yourself where else can you foster independence? For example, allow your child safe opportunities to walk out in the community rather than be held in a stroller or cart. Teach them the boundaries. When to hold hands, when is it safe to let go, what they can touch and what can’t they touch. Find safe open spaces like Church Street or quiet parts of the bike path where your child can move freely. Allow them to walk in and out of their school by themselves.
Little changes in your routine can add a whole lot of independence to your child’s life.
Ellen Drolette, owner of Sunshine Daydream Child Care, has been an early educator for 24 years. Named one of 50 master leaders in the world by Exchange magazine in 2015 and a global leader in early care and education for the World Forum Foundation, she is co-owner of Positive Spin, offering professional development and empowerment workshops. Reach Ellen at email@example.com.