Helping Children Be Responsible For Themselves

Get up and get dressed.  I said get up!  GET UP NOW!  Brush your teeth.  Have you brushed your hair?  You can’t wear that today.  No, we don’t have any doughnuts for breakfast.  Eat your cereal.  You know you have to eat breakfast.  What do you want me to pack for lunch?  Where’s your backpack?  Drink your milk.  It’s time to go.  Get in the car.  Where are your shoes?  Get in the car!!!  We are late again!   GET IN THE CAR!

Whew, does this sound familiar?  As I was doing car duty on Tuesday morning (it was very cold), I noticed parents fighting with their kids about wearing a coat or long sleeves or long pants. 

Would you like to start your day in a good mood, without having to argue or nag?  For some families this is not a problem, for others, the morning feels like World War III.  Morning routines are a perfect time for children to start making decisions on their own and having a little control without being disrespectful or ugly.  Remember, if we don’t give children some control, they will take it in any way they can. 

First Step:  Figure out who has the problem.  If my son doesn’t wear his coat today, how will that affect me?  Will I be cold or will I be comfortable because I have chosen to wear a coat. 

Second Step:  Model good decision making.  “Boy, I heard it was really going to be cold all day today.  I think I better get my coat.”  That’s it – no lecturing, no nagging, no reminding.

Third Step:  Allow your child to make his/her own decision about wearing a coat.  If s/he decides not to wear a coat, then the consequences are easy – s/he will be cold.  If they decide to wear or take a coat, then they have made this decision without someone nagging them.  They have had to use the thinking part of their brain and are satisfied with their decision.

Fourth Step:  (VERY IMPORTANT) Let empathy and consequences do the teaching.  If your child should call and ask you to bring their coat; be very empathetic first, then “too busy” to accommodate their request.  Let them know that you understand and you could have some hot chocolate to warm them up this afternoon.  NO LECTURES!  Same goes for after school.  It may go something like this:

                “I was cold all day today!  I can’t believe you made me forget my coat.”

                “Sounds like you were really cold today.  That’s so sad.  What are you going to do?”  

Now the hard part, let them figure out the solution.  Again, NO LECTURES!  Children learn how to be responsible adults by practicing as children.  Let them practice.  We all learn from our mistakes.  

These words of wisdom are from the Love and Logic Institute.