I have four (yes four!) amazing daughters that in one moment can be my absolute pride and joy and yet the very next can have me pulling my hair out!
People ask me all the time how I manage four children.
Isn’t it hard to get four kids ready for school in the morning? How is it making four school lunches?
To be honest, when I tell them my secret I often wonder if they think my husband and I are geniuses, or if they think we are bad parents.
Here’s my secret…
We have worked hard to foster independence in our children.
How do I make four lunches and get four kids ready for school? Easy – I don’t.
If my children want home lunch for school, then they make it themselves. Even my five-year-old knows that if she wants home lunch she needs to make that decision and with some help from me (or more likely one of her sisters) she needs to make it herself.
How about getting four children ready for school? Long ago my husband created a morning checklist that reminds them of everything they need to do to get ready for school, and they are responsible for doing it themselves.
This type of routine doesn’t happen overnight. My two-year-old is currently learning to do things herself, and frequently says “I do it.” It can be challenging to hear this, and it often feels so much easier to just put her shoes on for her and get her out the door. However, I try very hard to help her without taking over. I look forward to the day that she can put on her own shoes with a simple prompt. (To avoid some of the frustrations during this stage allow for extra time getting ready when you anticipate you will need it).
Many parents don’t take this approach, and here’s my theory as to why.
I want to feel needed by my children too. This is a valid and important part of the parent child relationship. But remember that your role as a parent is to prepare your children for the future and part of that preparation is learning how to independently do things. The benefits of learning these skills and practicing doing them without help far outweighs our feelings of being needed for those specific things. Our children will always need us, even when they can feed and dress themselves. The idea is to change over time what they need us for. The goal is to one day be proud of how well they are managing independently and making it clear that we are always going to be there when they need extra support.
I know that my children need me.
They need me to teach them how to survive in this world. The best thing I can teach them is how to do things for themselves and cultivate their sense of independence and resilience.