The A-B-C’s of Independence

How many times does you preteen argue for more independence, assuring you he can handle anything?

In today’s busy world with two-parent incomes and extracurricular activities ruling our “down time”, it’s no wonder most parents find it easier to do certain things themselves. But, are we really helping our preteens or stifling their independence?

There’s a training component to household chores – and most kids require more than one teaching session, not to mention supervision with some vital skills of independence. Most parents resign themselves to teaching these skills later rather than earlier – less stress. But, wouldn’t a little extra help around the house be nice? And wouldn’t the comfort of knowing if something happened to you, your child would be able to fend for themselves, no matter what the age? Back in the “old days”, kids became self sufficient at a very early age, so why should today be any different?

When kids hit the “preteen” age, between 7 and 12, they should at least be starting to realize the types of daily chores required for life. And, the best way for them to learn is to start early!

A -Assist themselves. Basic problem-solving skills are essential at this age. Don’t know what a word means or what the phone number is – look it up! Don’t know phone etiquette, such as the proper way to answer a phone or how to take a message – no time like the present to learn! Even such things as how to make a grocery list, shop for items and compare prices are not unreasonable goals for the preteen.

B -Budgeting. This is the age where homework becomes more involved. Budgeting time to complete a week-long assignment instead of waiting till the night before teaches responsibility. Keeping track of money is another important skill. Have him open up a bank account or learn how to save for that bigger purchase instead of running right out and getting it teaches patience and responsibility.

C -Cooking and Cleaning. Yes, even for the boys! How to prepare a simple meal is essential for living independently. Start by having him plan and prepare one meal a week. It doesn’t have to be involved, but teach the basics of cooking and safety.
And cleaning – living quarters don’t magically clean themselves! Start with specific tasks, such as cleaning up play things, then graduate to the whole room. Teaching how to vacuum or dust – even clean up dinner dishes is important. Laundry is included in this section. Start by sorting laundry or filling the washer. Something as simple as folding the clean clothes or putting them away teaches responsibility.

Always start out by teaching the basics, and stop treating boys and girls differently! Sure, it’s normal to teach girls these skills, but what about the boys? They need them just as much!

Once shown a particular activity, supervision is still essential, not only for proper technique, but for safety as well. Offer guidance in the form of questions instead of always giving advise teaches critical thinking skills often lacking in this day and age.

An important question to ask yourself – what are your striving for when it comes to your children – a clueless adult or a self-sufficient grown up?

Self-sufficiency to handle any new task is the ultimate goal – and with a little patience and guidance, you can be assured your child will have all the skills necessary to handle anything thrown in their direction!

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