Over the last few weeks I feel like I’ve FINALLY been getting the hang of this parenting thing. For anyone who knows me, you also probably know that my daughter is turning 6 this week.
The past few years have been filled with adventure and lots of questions. Should I let her use the scissors? Wait, she wants to pour her own milk out of a full carton. (Image pops into my head of spilled milk all over the clean kitchen.) Do I stop her or just let it go? And what about letting her get dressed alone, brushing her teeth or (worry, worry, worry) leaving the room when she wants ‘privacy’ during her bath?
We all have these concerns about our children. What do we “let” them do, and what will really upset them if we don’t let them?
With that said there is one thing that I have found EXTREMELY successful when trying to raise a well-mannered, happy, stable and healthy child (who, by the way is the most determined little person I have ever met).
I have to let her contribute.
The thing that really got me at first (that I have finally come to accept) is that I have to allow her to decide what she wants to contribute, even if those contributions are not necessarily what I myself would like her to do.
Accept Your Child’s Contributions — All of Them
The truth is that most children can never contribute to their parents as much as their parents contribute to them. But they want to; everyone wants to feel useful and have something that they help with. So when kids are small they will bring you things (presents) as a contribution.
I can’t tell you how many times I picked my daughter up from school at age 2-3 to find she had rocks, sticks, pieces of leaves and other ‘treasures’ that she had collected for me on the playground. As an adult my first inclination was to put them back into the forest, but they were her CONTRIBUTION. It was my job as a parent to take them, thank her and then find a safe place where we could put them that she agreed with.
As she got older she started to bring me pictures and other items she found. Then she started making me snacks. Even when she came to me with plates of cut up pickles, very ripe bananas and ‘questionable’ Jell-O, I took them and let her know how much I appreciated it. The more she contributed the better she felt about herself, the more confident she was and the happier she was in general. And the happier my daughter is, the happier I am because our house is peaceful and in harmony.
The times I did not let her contribute, tried to control the contribution or didn’t acknowledge her for helping, our life was tough. She threw tantrums, wouldn’t help with anything and would generally make messes and destroy the peacefulness of the house.
I once read that the primary goal of a child is to grow up and be independent. Letting your child contribute is one of the best ways to guide your child toward this goal.
Parenting Tips on Contribution
As stated above, a child likes to choose how they want to contribute to the family. But as they get older you can sit down with them (as I did with my daughter) and explain the roles of the family members. You can help guide them on the things they want to help with by:
1. Making a chore chart and asking them what they want to do.
2. Having a daily meeting on rewards the child can have (time with the parent, going somewhere fun etc.) and what chores they want to complete to get the reward.
3. Going over what the rules of the home should be as well as the penalties for breaking the rules. My daughter and I made a rule about tantrums. She decided if she threw one that she should have a time out in her room for 5 minutes, and if she kept it up she would lose television privileges.
Setting up agreements in the home is extremely important when your kid(s) are old enough. Until then, let them contribute and acknowledge them for what they do. You will see your home smooth out nicely.