And let's face it, the younger you begin, the less they'll fight you. Here are five crucial skills you must teach your kids that will give them a big head-start when they eventually do fly the coop.
Time Management ~ There are several ways for your child to learn to manage his time. Getting your child out of bed with plenty of time to wash, brush teeth, dress and eat breakfast before it's time to leave for school is morning job one for parents. Yet at some point, you'll have to transition your child into taking responsibility for getting himself out of bed and running his own morning routine. Helping your child take charge of his morning routine teaches him about the hard-to-grasp concept of time and builds his confidence.
Sorting and Categorizing ~ Most young kids like to "help" and by asking them to do age-appropriate tasks you build their self-confidence and teach them important lessons at the same time. Sorting is a crucial skill your child will use daily his entire life so best to begin teaching him very young. The ability to sort also helps children mentally organize the things they see and interact with every day. Putting toys away is one of the best ways your child can learn the skills of sorting. Children as young as two years can sort by color ("Let's put all the green things in this box and all the blue things in this box"), by item type ("Let's put trucks over here and animals over here") or by size ("Let's put big Legos in this box and small Legos in this box").
Responsibility for their Possessions ~ "Mom! Where's my..." What mom on planet Earth hasn't heard those words yelled across the house? When you take responsibility for keeping track of and caring for your child's things, she has no incentive to do it herself and you make her dependent on you. You also sign yourself up for a part-time job as stuff-tracker and that job comes with no pay and no benefits. Conversely, when you adopt a more hands-off approach, your child learns that if she isn't paying attention to her own behaviour and where she leaves her things, they become lost or broken. As a parent, it's your job to prepare her for the world and she needs to learn that you aren't her personal homing device.
Respect for Material Things ~ We love Suze Ormnan's mantra, "People first. Then money. Then things." It goes without saying that people are more important than things, however don't make the mistake of allowing your children to mistreat material goods in order to avoid hurting their feelings or stunting their "creativity." We can't tell you how often we've seen children destroying furniture, tearing books apart, or stomping on their toys without being parentally corrected. We understand that kids, especially very young ones, are always learning and most of the destructive things they do are just experiments to see what happens. It's not their fault because they haven't yet been taught not to destroy things, but we believe it's a parent's job to step in and establish boundaries that teach appropriate behaviour toward material items. You can encourage creativity without destruction. We don't write on walls and furniture, but we do write on tablets and coloring books. We don't tear up books, but we do tear up construction paper. When you allow your children to mistreat their own toys, books, clothing and such, they don't learn to respect their things or the effort it took to acquire those things. In addition, allowing a child to mistreat his own possessions (or yours) teaches a lack of respect for the hard work and property of others. After all, how can he respect someone else's property if you don't teach him to care for and respect his own?
Sharing Space ~ One of the interesting things about houses becoming larger over the years is the advent of separate bedrooms and additional bathrooms. Many of us grew up sharing bedroom s in a home with only one bathroom. As inconvenient as sharing bedrooms and bathrooms sounds, we think it's actually a good way for kids to learn to share space with another person. It's good for kids to learn to keep a space neat for the benefit of someone else and it helps teach them to manage their time too. We're sure many a brother quickly learned the value of getting up a few minutes early to nab the bathroom before someone else jumped in for her 20-minute shower!
Ask any parent and they'll say kids are simultaneously the best thing and the most chaotic thing you can add to your life! How have you added structure and routine to your child's life to help him learn important life skills, and keep things simple and running smoothly? We'd love to know what works for your family!
Kim & Sandra
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