Two children cooking. Photo Annie Spratt, Unsplash
1 June 2021 - 12:00am

Children are capable of more self reliance than their parents sometimes think. With the right support your child can learn to meet many of their own needs, and will often joyfully rise to an opportunity convincingly put.

Self-care, care of others, community care

Children of the 6-9 age group are capable of completing self-care tasks such as making a sandwich or packing their own lunch from leftovers in the fridge; making their bed; cleaning their room; and doing their own laundry or sorting and putting it away. They also enjoy taking care of the needs of others: setting and clearing the table for the whole family; helping a parent prepare dinner; caring for a younger sibling or walking a pet; bringing in the mail or newspaper; and watering the garden or cutting flowers for a bouquet to be given as a gift. Many children of this age group find taking care of community needs most rewarding: preparing a meal for the whole family; taking out the compost and garbage; picking up rubbish at a beach or park; cleaning the floors or the bathroom; contributing to a charity or worthy cause; writing to a neighbour or reaching out to grandparents with letters, emails or a video call.

Overcoming resistance

Children may resist contributing for many reasons: they may feel imposed upon or distracted by other priorities; they may feel overwhelmed by a task that seems new or too big; or they may feel that having things done for them represents a parent’s love. Is it a job that no one else wants? Initially it may be more work to help your child learn a task than to do it alone. How you introduce an activity can make all the difference to your child’s enthusiasm. Rather than presenting it as a chore they owe out of duty, help them feel excitement at this new opportunity to contribute or to learn to operate an appliance. Start small and set reasonable expectations. Choose a time when neither of you feels rushed. Expect to have to do it with them several times. Avoid external incentives (especially money) that might replace their internal satisfaction. Remind them with patient notes rather than nagging words. Thank them often. Gently persist!