Life Skills for Children – Start with the Little Niggles

When it comes to teaching life skills to children, the task is so huge many parents are daunted from the get-go. Excuses quickly come to mind and are equally quickly clung to:

They’ll learn it all naturally on their own!

It’s a hassle arguing with them about chores I just don’t need!

I can clean up quicker and with less stress if I do it on my own!

The answer: Of course you can, but that’s not the point.  While some of these are true many are nothing more than excuses. As parents, we are shirking our responsibilities somewhat if we give into these thoughts.

The best way to motivate ourselves out of any ruts we’ve fallen into with little niggles is to rustle up some gumption and get going.

Starting out doesn’t mean doing it all at once. Take a simple, step-by-step approach and you’ll soon reap the rewards – even if you don’t end up with perfect kids in a couple of weeks.

Start off with the little niggles. Think of 2 or 3 things that continually cause irritations in your home and make them into daily routines for kids, i.e.:

  • getting them to put dirty clothes in the wash basket and neatly fold those that can be re-used, or
  • putting toys away
Take each little niggle in turn and break it down into steps, i.e.¨
  1. accompany them to the bathroom / bed room where they take clothes off. (Small kids will be okay with this but older kids may prefer you to stay outside and that’s okay, just talk quietly through a slightly open door).
  2. decide what’s dirty – remind them of your own house rules such as needing fresh socks and underwear daily, etc.,
  3. put dirtystuff in the appropriate place,
  4. fold or hang up reuseable clothes. They may not want to reuse them the very next day, but later in the week.

Once you’ve worked out the steps you need to take a phased approach to teaching it to the kids (or re-teaching it for those that have slipped into lazy habits).

Phase One

Take the time and have the patience to complete each step with your child (or children) for a couple of weeks until they “get it” and develop the habits that makes the activity automatic. Have the patience to explain (or ask them to) why things are dirty, i.e., why do we have clean underwear and socks daily? This can be reused because a) it still smells fresh, b) there are no dirty marks of stains, etc. It is important that the children are active in this process. Ask them to answer these questions or, if you’ve more than one child, ask them to ask each other.

Over the first week or so, it will require time, effort and patience on your part but it will soon become a daily routine for kids.

Phase Two

After a couple of weeks (depending on the skill it will be shorter for many, longer for some), you’ll start to see automatic actions from them. This is your cue to step back (not completely though). Observe from a distance, if mistakes are made give gentle reminders and if things start slipping pose appropriate questions to “remind” them.

Phase Three

Once they’re on auto-pilot with no prompting from you, you can step back completely and give them their independence with their new skill. You’ll still need to check on occasion and step in quickly with Phase Two again if things start slipping but, in general, well done! One niggle down. You can regain the time you’ve invested (wisely I hasten to add) or move on to the next niggle.

PS One last word. Remember to lead by example and make sure you’re own clothes are sorted.

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