The journey of childhood can be seen as the journey from helplessness to autonomy. A child as young as a toddler yearns for autonomy and independence. At the age of four or five the child has a few skills more than a toddler eg. better physical coordination, better developed motor skills, better language skills, empathy, better understanding of cause and effect etc. This becomes a good ground for initiating the child into the next step of autonomy:
Giving the child the freedom of independence and therefore the responsibility to make choices and complete tasks.
These tasks can be as simple as house chores such as folding clothes, keeping the folded clothes away in their wardrobes, sorting clothes to wash, pouring water for everyone at the dinner table, serving a dish at dinner all by themselves, making juices, making salad dressings, washing rice/dal before cooking it and so on. This can also include handling glass utensils (supervised from far away).
This helps with:
- Enjoying the responsibility without feeling burdened
- The child trusting themself
- Building trust into the parent-child relationship
- Space for the child to exercise creative ways of doing things instruction-free
- Self-confidence and self-efficacy
- The joy of autonomously doing an IMPORTANT chore
If the child fails for some reason, this also provides us opportunities to be gentle with the child, giving the message that it is okay to fail, asking questions around how it can be done differently and most importantly, praising their efforts. It is important to be okay with the imperfections of the tasks done by the child and not to correct it or demand perfection.
- Ask your child to pick a house chore appropriate for the child’s developing skills which they would like to take the temporary responsibility for
- Participate in that chore along with your child, not teaching the child how to do it but modelling it for the child. (make sure that your child is willing to participate at that time)
- Ask your child to do it on their own
- Give your child space and time to do the task. You can consider leaving the room or engaging with another task
- Praise your child for making efforts and completing whatever part the child completes (help the child to complete the rest of it if necessary)
- Ask your child how they felt and what they thought
- Ask them what other things they would like to do on their own