One of the hardest parts about parenting a young child is having to do everything for them. You’re taking care of another person, completely responsible for their well-being and livelihood. It’s time consuming and stressful. But one of the things I have learned in my two years of being a mother is that we sometimes put more on ourselves then we have to by assuming we need to do every little thing for our kids. As my son has gotten older and more able, my new motto has been: Let them do it themselves.
I have found that my son absolutely loves to do most things himself. Yes, it sometimes feels like even more trouble than it’s worth, because letting a 2-year-old do certain tasks usually results in it taking longer and having to be redone. But even those are worth it, because while it takes more time now, it will only be a few years before the child really can do it himself and you won’t need to do it anymore.
So what am I talking about here, specifically? Let’s start with the things a 2-year-old can do right now — on his own — that are actually helpful and save me time and energy.
- He loves cleaning and can go get the dust buster himself, turn it on, and vacuum up dirt or small messes, and then put the dust buster away.
- He loves mopping up spills from the floor with paper towels.
- One of his favorite things is putting his laundry in the washing machine. He can drag his laundry basket to the washer, transfer all the clothes into it, and close the door by himself.
And it’s not all cleaning. He can also go find his shoes before we go out, and put any toys he wants to bring into the diaper bag. He feels so accomplished and grown up when he gets to do something by himself. I love to see him so proud of himself for helping. This list grows exponentially as the child gets older, of course.
There are some things he likes to do that I let him attempt even though they’re a bit beyond his capabilities right now.
- He’s obsessed with water and always asks to wash dishes. This often results in a mess on the floor (see: paper towel wiping, above), and the dishes are not actually clean. But it’s something I try to let him do when we have time, because I want to encourage the joy found in dishwashing and the skill involved. Instead of stamping out the desire, I will foster his ability to actually help in a few short years.
- Same goes for sweeping the floors. He loves to try, but just can’t quite get the dirt in the right place, so I still have to sweep later.
- He really enjoys cooking and will often watch cooking videos and then ask to make the dish shown. Sometimes the flour doesn’t all stay in the bowl, and usually it takes forever (because he does not want to stop mixing). But I appreciate how happy it makes him to create his own food, and he’s learning skills I know will serve him for his entire life.
Letting kids do things themselves does require patience — and sometimes cleaning up more of a mess than when you started — but letting them try to do as many of these things as possible when they’re little will benefit them later in life. We need to be able to let go of the idea that our job is to do everything for our children and remember that they should be learning to do things by themselves. And usually, they want to.