This post is written by School Mum contributor Carolyn Tate
I have a challenge when it comes to school in my house. Two of my three kids are at school (the youngest is in kindergarten this year), but they are at massively different stages of development. My daughter has just started high school and is in Grade 7 this year, and my son is just in his second year of primary school, in Grade 1.
My Grade 1 son and my Grade 7 daughter have massively different levels of ability to look after themselves. And this is something that I let become a rod for my own back last year.
I fell into a very obvious trap. What my son needed done, I also did for my daughter. How could I do for one and not the other? Wouldn’t that be showing favouritism? And I’m already doing it anyway – it’ll just be quicker and easier if I do it for both.
But this year things will be different. Because there is very little that is more important to me than raising children who will be happy, capable and confident adults some day. That means they need to learn how to do things for themselves.
So here are six things I won’t be doing for my children (age appropriate) this year, with the intention that they will learn to do them themselves, and be one step closer to being able to take care of themselves in the wild.
1. Making lunch
Sure, I know my little one is little, and I won’t just let him starve. What I will do is supply a variety of healthy choices in the kitchen, and allow him to assemble his own lunch. My kids know they need to include something with carbohydrates, a fruit, a vegetable, something with dairy, and one treat. If my daughter wants something that doesn’t exist, she is welcome to make it herself. And my son is perfectly capable of making a sandwich if he doesn’t like the current options.
2. Taking in forgotten homework/swimming gear/permission slips
It’s my kids’ job to remember to pack their bags with everything they need. If they forget, I will not enable them by interrupting my work day to bail them out. My daughter has learned this one already. It only took her one missed swimming lesson and one missed trip to the museum before she was cured of her forgetfulness. Will she do it again? Maybe, but she knows not to call me and ask me to drop everything for her, because she knows it’s her responsibility.
3. Dropping everything to do a last minute assignment
My kids know that I know that teachers never give complicated assignments with a 24 hour deadline. Doesn’t happen. My inner nerd is very happy to plan assignments with them and work out what they need and how they’re going to schedule their time to get things done, but I will not be pulled into last minute drama because they forgot all about it. They can do their best with the time they’ve got. If they get a bad grade, that will reflect what they deserve, and hopefully they can make it up with other work. If they can’t that will be a lesson in itself.
4. Emailing their teachers with their questions or concerns
Unless there is a serious problem with bullying or mental health issues, my children can be the ones to ask questions of their teachers. If they want an extension for an assignment, or want to know how to get into the soccer team, they can put on their big kid pants and ask. I’m happy to be involved in my kids’ schools as a parent, but I’m also all for getting out of their way and letting them establish a strong relationship with their teachers and the school admin staff.
5. Being overly involved in their laundry
Okay, my son can’t reach the clothesline yet, so I cut him some slack. But it’s his job to ensure his clothes are neatly in his dirty clothes basket (not on the bathroom floor or on the floor around his dirty clothes basket). I wash, hang out and bring in his clothes, but it’s his job to hang his shirts and fold his other clothes, and put them away. Are they perfect? No, of course not, but they’re fine. My daughter is fully responsible for washing her uniforms. I’ve told her if she hangs her blouses and skirts out straight away after washing, they won’t need to be ironed, so we’ll see whether that bit of info sticks. She knows she’ll get a detention if she turns up in a wrinkled uniform so I’m betting her motivation to keep things nice will be high. If not, how many detentions do you think it will take for her to learn?
6. Waking them up
I’m the first up in our house, and if I wanted to I could delicately float around the house and wake each child with butterfly kisses to ensure they have a beautiful start to the day. But that won’t prepare them for life. Each child has an alarm clock that awakes them with plenty of time to get out of bed, get ready for school and eat a healthy breakfast before we set off for school. They’re mostly up before their alarms anyway, but if not, they know the system is in place to not let them sleep in.
The benefits of these skills go two ways of course. My kids learn to be responsible adults who can take care of themselves. And I get to not feel like an insane nag who says the same thing over and over without any change in behaviour. Win-win!