How to Encourage Independence in Your Children this School Year

independentkids

 

independentkid2

As children get older they tend to develop a strong desire to spread their wings a little more and test new boundaries. As school begins again, you may find that it’s a great time to start giving them opportunities to grow by allowing them to take control of some of the tasks, habits, and personal items they require. Assess the needs of each child and use these suggestions to start encouraging independence in your children this school year.

 

Let them take responsibility for their breakfast

Breakfast is something parents often take care of but can easily be entrusted to the kids. You can set the boundaries by choosing what foods go on the table, but most school-age children are ready to start serving themselves. If you want to get creative, consider a “breakfast station” like this one, full of breakfast options like oatmeal packets, bagels, and cereal that they can make on their own. Be sure to include some grab-and-go foods like fruit and granola bars for mornings when there are a few kids in a rush.

 

Allow them to choose their own clothes each day

Help the kids figure out a system for choosing school clothes each day so mornings don’t become too hectic when socks and underwear are nowhere to be found. Will the choice be made right before bed each night? How about choosing five outfits at the start of the week? A simple daily label placed on a hanger – like these free printables from Sweet Bella Roos – with each outfit can eliminate a lot of confusion. It’s likely the kids will become more confident in who they are as they find ways to express themselves through their clothing choices. Let each child find what works best for them and help them stick to it.

 

Put them in charge of their own lunch

Delegate the morning task of lunch-making to the kids! Set out the ingredients in a way that works for your family, with options from each of the food groups. You can see an example of a lunch station here. Every child can put together a lunch they actually want to eat and you can have more time to sign permission slips and comb hair. And if a child doesn’t get up on time, consider letting the natural consequence of missing out on lunch that day be a lesson to him or her. You can practically guarantee they’ll wake up tomorrow!

 

Make them responsible for their “stuff”

Allow each of your children to inventory their own backpacks when they walk in the door. Being in charge of their jackets, school papers, and sports gear takes a load off of your plate and uses natural consequences to teach kids why it’s important to keep track of those things. A family command center is the perfect way to give kids the reins but still provide a bit of guidance. There are many ways to create one and you’ll want to customize it to suit your family’s needs, but some basics might include a coat hook for each child, a calendar, a chalkboard, and a basket for each child’s shoes or loose items.  Keep chalk or pens nearby so the kids can write down project deadlines and things they need to remember. Make it clear that they will be responsible for their own gear, and this is the place to keep it if they want to have quick access to it in the mornings. You can see more great command center ideas on Remodelaholic.

 

Allow them to choose their snacks

Fill a basket (let the kids help too!) with healthy snacks your kids can munch when they get home in the afternoon. Here’s a great example from I Heart Organizing. Kids can choose what they will eat from the basket, but you are in charge of the options that go into the basket. It’s a great solution when trying to balance responsibilities between parent and child.

 

Put them in charge of some things at home

Including a few household tasks on their list of to-do’s is a good way to keep kids involved at home. Assign simple, age-appropriate tasks that they can choose to do before or after school or use a chore chart or chore wheel like these and perhaps a rewards system to help them start to understand the value of contributing within the family.

 

A few tips for children who are less enthusiastic about becoming independent:

  • Create routines – a routine establishes a predictable pattern that a child can learn and become confident in. Guide them through the first week of a new routine and then slowly begin to withdraw, allowing them to take responsibility for following and completing the routine.
  • Ask questions – when your child comes to you with a problem you think they can handle on their own, ask questions that will get them thinking for themselves. For example, if your child tells you a friend is talking and disrupting things at school, you might ask, “What could you say to your friend to help her focus on what the teacher is saying?” Or if a child keeps forgetting their homework, “What could you do to help you remember to put the papers in your backpack each night?” Many children can solve their own problems with a bit of encouragement.
  • Believe in them – it can be difficult to step away as your child learns to take care of him or herself. They’ve needed you for so many things for so long! Trust them. Trust that they can make good choices. Trust that they can figure things out, and tell them you trust them. It may be just the thing that gives them the confidence to take the next step

 

Featured image via Better Homes and Gardens.

Kayla Lilly is a photographer, writer, wife, and mama making a house a home in eastern Idaho. She met her mister while working at an amusement park and married him a year later after deciding there was no way to live without him. The amusement has continued as they’ve added three kids and a passel of pets to their lives while finishing college and starting a photography business. Drawing inspiration from the whirlwinds of marriage, parenthood, and the media, Kayla blogs at Utterly Inexperienced, and spends the rest of her time chasing chickens, organizing junk drawers, diapering toddlers, and photographing everyone willing to step in front of her lens.

6 Ways to Build a Bedtime Routine

Bedtimeroutine

 

bedtime routines

 

Crying, begging to stay up late, asking for food, drinks, or one more story – bedtime can be a struggle for parents and children at any age! Family routines can help, but it is often difficult to know where to start. Start working with your child tonight and use these 6 great tips to really design a bedtime routine that works for the whole family!

 

1. Prepare for the routine during the day

Make sure kids are not napping too late. A toddler typically needs 6 hours of afternoon wake time before being able to settle down again for bedtime, and a nap at 4:30 in the afternoon would set that time at 10:30pm! Try to plan ahead and set nap or quiet times at the appropriate hours. Also be sure to feed children a meal or snack earlier in the evening that will carry them through the night. Your best bet – a combination of protein and carbohydrates, such as string cheese and a piece of whole wheat toast.

 

2. Establish the right environment

Bright screens, loud noises, video games, movies, and other distractions all spell trouble when it comes to falling asleep. Variations in light can also interrupt sleep patterns once a child does get to sleep. If a night light is needed for nighttime trips to the restroom or keeping “monsters” at bay, select one that is dimmer and less likely to keep a child up if he or she wakes in the night.

 

3. Offer simple choices

Children, particularly toddlers, have a tendency to do the opposite of what adults ask of them. They have so little control over things that they constantly seek things they can choose – so why not bring that into your routine and thereby remove some of the “battle?” You might try choices like:

One book or two?

Green pajamas or yellow?

Bubble gum toothpaste, or mint?

Lullaby music, or no music?

Come up with some ideas for your child that fall within your own limits for bedtime.

 

4. Resist the “stay with me” pout

No matter how puppy-eyed your child gets, don’t make a habit of lying down with or rocking he or she if you want them to be able to put themselves back to sleep in the night. Learning to fall asleep on their own will help them soothe themselves if they wake and keep them from crawling into bed with mom and dad!

 

5. Consistency is the real key

No matter how you look at it, consistency is the only real way to make bedtime work. You’ve got to commit to your routine and do it every night. If a child gets out of bed, you’ve got to put them back – over and over again! Giving in when things get hard will land you right back where you began.

 

6. Other useful ideas for “cracking a tough egg”

  • Provide a transitional object like a pacifier, stuffed animal, blankie, etc. can continue to comfort a child after mom and dad have left the room.
  • Practice and role play your routine – help your child understand their new routine by doing some role playing during the day, long before bedtime. Take turns “putting each other to bed” or show them how to go through the routine by practicing on a doll.
  • Include some time for a “wind-down chat” with your child. Kids need time to release their thoughts and emotions at some point during the day, and a quiet few minutes with mom or dad in the evening can be just the thing to get them to sleep without all the “what if’s” running through their minds.
  • Older children may benefit from a “you decide” type of bedtime. If the bedtime routine is not getting them to the point where they can fall asleep quickly, there is another method you can try. Go through your routine, take them to the bedroom, and let them know that they can play or read quietly until they feel tired. Let them know that they must stay in their room, however, and if the play becomes noisy or they leave the bedroom, it’s “lights out” immediately.
  • Say goodnight to people and objects around your home. As in the book Goodnight Moon, sometimes it is helpful to tell everything else it’s time for bed before actually going to bed yourself!

 

Looking for more great parenting ideas? Try these tips for How to Help Your Toddler Listen!

 

Featured image via Better Homes Gardens.

 

Kayla Lilly is a photographer, writer, wife, and mama making a house a home in eastern Idaho. She met her mister while working at an amusement park and married him a year later after deciding there was no way to live without him. The amusement has continued as they’ve added three kids and a passel of pets to their lives while finishing college and starting a photography business. Drawing inspiration from the whirlwinds of marriage, parenthood, and the media, Kayla blogs at Utterly Inexperienced, and spends the rest of her time chasing chickens, organizing junk drawers, diapering toddlers, and photographing everyone willing to step in front of her lens.

Help Your 2 to 3 Year Old Listen!

help your 2 to 3 year old listen

Sometimes getting your children to listen seems like an impossible feat, especially with young children.  When they are in that magical, but difficult 2-3 year old age.  Climbing to the top of Mount Everest seems easy in comparison.  Trying not to resort to yelling, cuz we all know, yelling is not the answer.  So, the next time you need your child to listen, try some of these easy to follow tips.

10 ways to communicate to your 2-3 year old!

(So they will listen!)

 

1. Settle Feelings:

No one will listen if there are lost of frayed nerves in the conversation.  Make sure that you take the 10 seconds to just breathe and think before discussing.  Helping your child to calm down is just as important, so they can focus, give them that time if possible.

 

2.  Avoid a Harsh or Yelling Voice:

I think it is natural in all humans, that when we get yelled at or spoken to in a harsh mean voice, we get defensive.  Instead, use a calm voice and say their name, with a simple request.  This will help them feel less attacked and they will be more willing to listen or respond.

 

3. Speak Eye to Eye:

Looking down at your child from full height, and commanding them to do something with a stern set in your eyes, is great for intimidation.. not for listening.  Instead, get down on your child’s level.   Ask them “Please look at my eyes”. Keep your eye’s expression soft (not hard).  You want to help them engage in the conversation and feel like they are being heard too.

 

4.  Short and Sweet:

Don’t rattle off a list of requests.  Make one request at a time, and be direct.  Try to keep it to one sentence.

 

5. Try to Avoid Negative Statements:

It seems like our first gut feeling is to tell them No.   No eating treats, no running, no hitting, no writing on the walls…  That is a lot of negative.   Next time, instead of yelling “No Running!”  try, “Let’s walk instead of running.”  Try to rephrase the request without using the word no.   If they don’t hear “No” every other word, they may actually respond to “No” when you absolutely have to use the word.

 

6. No If’s:

Instead of saying “If you do this… then that will happen” use the term “when”.   “When you clean up your toys, then we can go outside.”  “When,” implies that you expect them to obey,  “if,” gives them a choice as to whether or not they are going to obey.

 

7. Choices:

If you are leaving and they aren’t putting on their coat ask, “Would you like the red coat or the blue.”  Giving them a choice makes them feel more empowered and helps them want to be part of doing what needs to be done.

 

8. Help them to vocalize:

When you learn a new saying, there is nothing like reciting it out loud, to cement it in our brain.  When a child makes a mistake, you want to help them understand what is wrong.  They may not understand why they are being put in a time out, or having a toy taken away.  Discuss what happened and why they had a consequence.  Help them to apologize for what they did ” I’m sorry Mommy, I won’t hit you again.”   Having them explain why they are sorry helps them to begin to understand what they did to cross the line.

 

9. Follow through:

If you tell your child that they are going to go to time out if they throw their toys again, then you MUST follow through when they do throw their toys again.  If a child thinks you don’t mean what you say, they won’t listen when you say it.  Do not give empty warnings.

 

10.Pick Your Battles:

You don’t need to fight about everything they do.  A child needs to be able to make some choices on their own.  When my toddlers were young my doctor advised me to choose 2 or 3 things that are not allowed to do.  Be sure to discuss them with your partner, and agree that those are the things that you both will always back each other up on.  (This helps parents not to bicker amongst themselves too when a child does something that one parent tolerates but the other dislikes.)

 

11. Don’t be afraid to apologize:

Sometimes, A LOT of times, when we are human we make a mistake and react with a harsh voice or yelling.  Don’t be afraid to apologize to your child.  Your child need to know and see that when you make mistakes you try to make it right.

 

Don’t feel like you have to do them all at one time.  Just try to incorporate a few things into your day to day routine.  As they become more routine, you will see a change for the better in both the way you respond to your child and they way they respond to you!