As parents we love our children and we want the best for them. Yet, what is our goal? As much as we love them its to get our kids out of the house. Yes, we need to launch them into the real world. In order to make this happen successfully we need to raise independent, self-sufficient human beings. Accomplishing this goal requires prent to always be thinking. What is the best route to take between helpless infancy and independent adulthood?
Independence is best built gradually. We want to build such skills as making sound decisions, caring for one's own needs, taking action to meet goals, being responsible for one's own actions, and seeking out the information we need to guide choices. None of these things will develop magically or over night, however. Kids need a range of experiences, from simple to complex, in order to learn these skills. Let's take a quick look at each of these areas.
The ability to make wise decisions, like most of these skills, begins in small ways. We wouldn't dream of turning our young adults loose with out training or instruction in how to weigh alternatives, but many of us neglect the beginnings of the process. Small children need to be allowed to make decisions as soon as they are capable of choosing between two things. This can begin in such simple ways as "Do you want your red or your blue shirt today?" and "It's your turn to choose whether we have corn or green beans for supper." Help the child to see the differences, advantages and disadvantages of each choice, and then allow the kid to choose. Be sure to only offer acceptable choices (or at least ones that you are willing to live with!) so that the child has no chance of making "the wrong choice." As the young one grows, you can allow more and more freedom on increasingly important choices.
Children learn to care for their own needs by experience and practice. It's a common trap for parents to do things for their children long after the youngster has the ability to accomplish the same tasks, simply because it's quicker or easier. However, time spent while kids are young to teach them how to do personal and household tasks is well-spent. Most young children are very motivated to be more mature, and will try very hard to learn these skills. Plus, when the child does finally become proficient, you will have eased your own burden in many ways.
Summer Camp is a wonderful place that challenges your child to become responsible for their stuff and actions. At camp children are supervised but not coddled so clothes left on the floor need to be picked up, their is no maid service. Parents often tell us that the true benefit of summer camp is the increased self confidence and initiative to get chores done around the house.
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