Your helper might be part of the reason your child isn’t more independent yet.
By age six, your child is old enough to take responsibility for a great deal of her own personal care. She should be able to comb her hair, carry her school bag and tidy up her messes. But, if you have a domestic helper, you may find that she tends to do these tasks for your child.
“The tendency of many helpers is to help the child with her request, whatever it may be, within reason,” shares Eddy Lam of 121 Personnel Services. “After all, many children address their helper as ‘big sister’ or ‘auntie’.” Before you discuss this with your child though, explain to your helper that you are glad she cares enough about your child to want to do all these things for her. Now, however, you want your kid to become more independent.
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“As parents, we should encourage our children to be as independent as possible,” says Eddy, who underscores, “The helper is not there to ‘replace our arms’.” Still, you may face an uphill struggle trying to persuade your little one to become more can-do, as she may not see the point.
If she is old enough to understand, use practical examples such as, “If you learn how to clean your room, your clothes won’t be crushed and dirty from lying on the floor.” Or, “If you buy your own snack at the food court, you’ll have more fun when we take you there with your friends.” Work with other caretakers in the home to reassure her, and keep her motivation levels high.
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It’s also important to manage your own expectations. Tasks that seem simple to you – dressing herself for school in the morning or tidying her room – may be monumental to her. Make all targets clear.
For instance, “I want you to put both socks on by yourself” is clearer than telling her, “I want you to get dressed on your own.” Likewise, Eddy advises, “set out clear instructions to your helper on what are things she should help with and what she should not.”
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The more success your LO achieves when she tries to do things herself, the more enthusiasm she will have for further progress and taking on new tasks.
The process is easier if she learns to think ahead: Ask her to imagine that she has made her choice, and then to think about that decision’s practical effects on herself and others. You might even be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your daughter improves her self-help skills once she realises the helper won’t do it for her anymore.
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Text adapted from Young Parents / Additional Reporting by Sara Lyle Bow
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