Build Your Child’s Independence So You Can Step Back (During COVID)
| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 10/7/2020 |
It is an understatement to say parents have been burning their candles at both ends since the start of the pandemic. Though wearing multiple hats at home on top of professional obligations is a task beyond human power, I sincerely believe that parents have pulled through simply because of the sheer power of love that they have for their children. Thus, we all have been weathering this storm together to this very day. Despite the vast difficulties, I am sure it is the parents’ deepest wish to provide the best for their kids during this extraordinary time. Good news! I have a few suggestions that will improve your child’s executive function skills while providing a stress reliever for parents because your child’s daily independence will be good for the both of you. If the child can self-regulate at least 80% of the daily routines, you can begin to experience the joy of stepping back. Your parenthood is golden.
Post Major Routines, Roles, and Expectations
The act of displaying household routines may sound simple, but it will save a lot of lecturing and re-explanation time when your child doesn’t follow through to meet your expectations. If you post mutually agreed protocols in communal spaces, this is a major way to train your students to rise to your expectations. When your child forgets a routine, the readily available instructions on the wall will help your child to assimilate to your rules faster without you having to repeat it endlessly. Clear expectations and communication will also boost household relationships and create harmony. Meanwhile, your child is learning foundational executive functioning skills: follow through, self-regulation, structure and time management. It is true you have to devote some time upfront to train your young ones how to follow your system, but it really does pay off in the long run. After your child gets the drill, you can sit back and relax to witness the magic and have a few moments to yourself knowing your child is gaining more and more independence by the day. This will save your sanity in the long run.
Everyone Chips In
To further build independence, have your kids pitch in on some of the daily chores that would otherwise fall entirely on the parents. For example, your kids can set the table for lunch and dinner while you do the cooking. If you have multiple children, then assign a different role for each child that is age-appropriate (i.e. set the table, bring the dishes to the sink, dry the dishes etc.). You may think how do these small tasks build executive functioning skills? Just like any new learning, a drop of water a day will eventually become an ocean. It is the daily practice and reinforcement that make the learning stick. The essential knowledge here is to establish and maintain an internal sense of structure and autonomy in the home while relieving the stress for the parents a bit.
Children learn to be autonomous when they get a sliver of what adulthood would require and early lessons are the deepest. Of course, once the children enjoy a sense of doing work without reminders as their work ethics deepen, parents would feel good. Additionally, this developmental maturity will further springboard the children to adopt and apply newer executive function skills for daily life because they see that they can translate these skills easily across many life situations.
Clean As You Go
We all know too well that cleaning common areas and personal spaces as you go can save a lot of time in the end. Below are some simple hacks to have all corners of your home always clean and tidy while simultaneously helping your children develop time management, organization, and self-regulation skills.
Clean 15 minutes a day at a designated time where everyone does it to boost morale, if possible (i.e: 15 min daily before dinner time). If not, each person can clean within the 15 minutes that best fit their personal schedule.
Put back one thing the way you’ve found it every time you move from room to room.
Implement a family chore chart
Then, every Thursday (Friday may promote procrastination) everyone gets a score from mom or dad on their organizational skills. Accountability is key. Not only will your student internalize long-term executive function skills, but it will also give mom and dad a much needed and deserved break as well as enjoy a fantastically smelling home on many Fridays, which is a great mood booster for everybody. But beyond that, daily expectations and protocols help children visualize a resilient understanding that sometimes some things must be done at a certain time to create efficiency and effectiveness. It is important to teach children how to find the intrinsic motivation to get essential tasks done well despite roadblocks along the way. With consistent student implementation of executive function skills in daily life, your child will gradually habituate into self-regulation and parents will experience the shining, proud moments of stepping back.