Good news, moms! The new school year is underway! The time that parents celebrate and kids dread. There are so many new things happening this time of year that many kids feel a bit overwhelmed. New teachers, new schools, new friends…it's a lot! But in my house, that's not all that's new! With each new school year comes a new level of responsibility for my kids.
"I'm one of the big kids, now!"
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Starting a new grade is a big milestone for each child. He remembers the kids from last year who were in that grade. They seemed so big and grown up. Now, he's one of those big kids! That's pretty cool, huh? Well, part of being that big kid now means taking on more tasks at home.
When I work with parents I talk about how important it is to give kids age-appropriate everyday jobs. Responsibilities that grow with the kids so that by the time they are 16 years old, they are truly ready for the HUGE undertaking of driving a car and making the good choices necessary to be safe.
The Roots of Self-Esteem
Danger! One pitfall I see many parents fall into is not giving their kids enough responsibility. As a rule, we do too much for our kids. What does that communicate to them? Perhaps we're telling them with our actions that we don't think they are capable or that they should need us forever. When we give our kids responsibilities and trust them to do it – not always perfectly or even well, by the way, we empower them to learn and to feel proud of themselves for their accomplishments.
If we do everything for them, how will they ever learn what they are capable of doing for themselves? This is the root of self-esteem. Doing something - trying, trying, trying, conquering it and then feeling proud. Sometimes, just the trying feels good even if the end result is not accomplished. When we do too much for our kids, we rob them of many opportunities for growth and competency. Even the frustration of not accomplishing things is full of rich learning opportunities.
How Broad are Your Shoulders?
At three years old, kids have teeny, tiny shoulders that can only handle the responsibility of choosing the blue shirt or the yellow shirt. At five years old, their shoulders are a little broader and the child can be responsible to bring her homework sheet and sweater home from school (most of the time). At six years old, a child might be able to help Mom make her lunch, whereas, at nine she's able to make the whole lunch herself. By ten, kids can help with the laundry by folding towels and putting their clothes away.
At the start of middle school, washing their own gym clothes is not only appropriate, but preferred! (Stinky!) Of course, these are just examples and not indicative of all kids and all families. As kids get older, their shoulders broaden, allowing them to "shoulder" more and more responsibility until finally becoming an adult with shoulders broad enough to handle just about anything!
In this new school year, what new responsibilities can your kids handle?
Here are a few tips to ease the way:
1. Make it fun and not feel like a "chore".
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2. Begin by doing things together.
3. If they seem overwhelmed, help them and know that job may have been too much. Then choose a smaller piece at a time for them.