When kids help and aren’t such a help :)

This morning I started taking dishes out of the drainer, and noticed that a number of them weren’t very clean. Usually I do the dishes, but last night ds8 wanted to surprise me and spent a long time in the kitchen washing a huge sinkful of dishes.

This was particularly nice since I can really see him maturing into his own person – as the typical youngest child personality (he was the youngest for almost four years before his next three brothers were born), he had a strong tendency to avoid work and tell me he can’t do what he’s asked to do, that it’s too hard.  So the significance of him doing so much work that he wasn’t asked to do, doing it cheerfully, and doing it voluntarily shows he is growing out of that stage.

What do you do when your child helps and it’s not up to your standards?  Firstly, remember that: a) the purpose of them helping isn’t to assist you, but to learn the skills they need to do, and b) to encourage them them so they have a positive feeling in the future about similar jobs.  Don’t get frustrated that you’ll have to do the work all over again.  It’s irrelevant.  What matters is the opportunity you’re giving your child to develop a new skill and sense of competence.

But when the work does have to be done again (as it did today), don’t let them see you doing it.  There was a good bit of grease left on the dishes, so I waited until he was busy somewhere else for a while, and then did all the dishes again.  When he came back into the kitchen, I sincerely thanked him again and told him I hadn’t realized how many dishes he had washed – the drainer was packed!

It helps to remember also that if they help and you have to do it again, you’re not any worse off than you were before – but if you encourage your child, in the long run you’ll both be lots better off!

This is how kids learn – they need to be allowed to do something new and not have high expectations held over them that they can’t possibly live up to.  Children quickly learn that they’re better off not trying than doing what they can, if it will provoke criticism and complaints from you.  It’s pretty easy to remember this the first couple of times they do something new; the challenge is in remembering this when they’ve done it enough times that you think they should be proficient by then!  Children will naturally continually seek increased independence and competence when they feel good about their efforts, and our response has to come from a place of appreciation and support of our children.


5 thoughts on “When kids help and aren’t such a help :)

  1. You made some great observations that I find helpful. I agree with all you said (as usual!). :) Thanks for the great pep talk.

  2. Thank you-i needed to hear this! My 5 year old had a ball washing some dishes last week and I bit my tongue trying not to get involved.
    She felt so accomplished afterwards-and I did the same thing as you-rewashed when she wasn’t around :)

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