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Monday, May 23, 2011

Raising the Bar for Babies: Part 4 of 4

Age-Appropriate Responsibilities

By Guest-Blogger Tet George

A third way we can raise our expectations for toddlers is through age-appropriate responsibilities. Here we have the application of the principle that our son is a privileged member of our family with duties and responsibilities that come with the position. Many parents might already be scratching their heads… responsibilities? For a toddler? Yup. Responsibilities, chores, pick your term. Even very young children can start to learn that they have a role as a part of a bigger system, the family. Even though allowing a toddler to “help” may actually involve a little more work for you as a parent, the right time to start teaching these skills is now.

Here are some examples of toddler-appropriate chores:
-Putting away their toys
-Wiping up their tray after eating
-Carrying a dish to the sink
-Helping to set the table (putting a napkin at each seat, etc)

Training a child in simple chores can be a great way to instill confidence as they learn and conquer each new skill. It also encourages the child to see himself not as the center of the family, but as a contributing member. In other words, assigning age-appropriate chores is another tool in your arsenal in the fight against self-centeredness. I remember the first time I had my son find his sneakers and bring them to me so we could get ready to go out. When he completed both parts of the task successfully, I suddenly realized that my little needy guy had saved ME a trip! At 18 months old, he had actually completed a task that made my load a little easier. It was exciting to realize that with each level of development, he will learn to handle a little more responsibility and be slightly less dependent. But again, he won’t naturally take on more responsibilities unless we give him the opportunity to do so in age-appropriate ways.

Responsibility and chores also provide ample opportunity for the development of character qualities like thoroughness, diligence, resourcefulness, and orderliness. When I was way past my toddler years, one of my weekly tasks was cleaning the bathroom. Saturday was our chore day and we each had jobs like vacuuming the entire downstairs, cleaning a bathroom, or sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor. My mom would always survey our work after we were done to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. She taught us to take pride in accomplishing even a menial task to the very best of our ability.

Although my son is a little young for toilet duty, the same lessons can be taught through responsibilities that fit his developmental level. Similarly to teaching a child to speak politely and appropriately, with each new level of ability, we can increase the expectation. Chores should change and become more challenging as your little ones develop. Assigning and coaching our kids in household tasks may be one of the easiest ways we can increase our expectations for toddlers. And the results will speak for themselves- even a simple lesson in applying some elbow grease can make a lifelong impact on your child’s work ethic.

When we raise our expectations for toddlers and older babies, we challenge ourselves to rigorous consistency and commitment. We must gird ourselves for the challenge, keeping our eyes on the prize: self-controlled and secure kids with a head start in the lifelong journey of submitting to a Higher Authority.

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