Raising Competent Kids

raising-competent-kidsWe would all like our children to be competent people who are capable of doing whatever they would like, but we often undermine their attempts to learn to do things for themselves. I have known many people who were constantly criticizing their children’s efforts at doing anything, and then complaining about how they never help around the house. Who wants to do what someone is requesting, when you know you will never live up to their expectations? It seems obvious that a child’s first attempts to take care of the dishes, set the table, feed the dogs, get dressed, and many other tasks, are not going to be as fast or done as well as when an adult does it. It amazes me to see how many adults seem to expect kids to be able to act like miniature adults.

When teaching a child how to perform a task, it is essential to have patience. It may take a while for them to do it, but trying to rush them just makes everyone frustrated. My 5 year old likes to help me put groceries in the cart because he says he’s “the strongest”. I’m pretty sure it takes ten times as long as it would doing it myself, but he loves helping me so much. He is proud of himself when he gets the heavy bag of dog food onto the bottom of the cart, or gets a gallon of milk into the cart.

Close supervision is also needed for at least some tasks. My 5 year old and 2 year old like to help unload the dishwasher, but they both think our glasses should stack up. They don’t, they just break when you try. I know this because both boys have tried this, with not so great results for the glasses. I had them stay right where they were until I could lift them out of the broken glass around them. Having them practicing this alone would not have been a good idea.

When a child is learning something, it can be difficult to find the right amount of help to give. Too much help and they don’t learn anything. Too little and they just feel like they failed and they give up. I usually let them try it themselves first and then provide as little help as possible if they seem to be getting it themselves, and more if they seem to need it.

I try to stay away from empty praise, or making them believe that they are loved for how much they help or how good they are at something. I try to simply point out what they accomplished. “You put your boots on yourself!” rather than saying “You’re so smart that you figured out how to get your boots on!” so that the next time they can’t get their boots on, they are not going to think that means they aren’t smart.

It can be a delicate balance sometimes, trying to teach a small person how to do everything that they will eventually need to do for themselves. It is so rewarding to see the smile on their face when they realized what they just accomplished, and to have the bittersweet feeling that they are one step closer to independence.

Share This Blog

About This Blogger

Kaitlyn Sexton

I was born in a small town (less than 2,000 people small, thought I would clarify since I have heard some people refer to 30,00 as a small town and there’s a big difference) in southern Michigan. I grew up on the farm my family has owned since the mid-1800s. My grandparents lived across the road from us. I love books and learning so I have taken a college class on about every subject there is, and I just got my own library in our new house. I also enjoy baking and sewing. My husband farms too, and we just moved into a farmhouse we have been remodeling for the last year. It turns out his parents went to school with my dad and our grandfather’s were friends. In a small town, everyone knows or is related to everyone else. We have 3 kids- a 5 year old boy, a 2 year old boy, and a 4 month old girl. I am homeschooling our oldest, although with his love for numbers, I often think he is teaching me. I recently completed my pre/postnatal fitness specialist certification and I am working on completing my personal trainer certification. I also sell baked goods and children’s clothes from home, when I am not refilling sippy cups of milk while wearing the baby in her carrier.