In the Back-to-School issue of Local Living, we sought out experts for advice on different ways to prepare for the school year. For the full list of stories, go to washingtonpost.com/parenting.
There is almost certainly something you’re doing for your children that they are ready to do for themselves.
Amy McCready, author of “The ‘Me, Me, Me’ Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World” and a parenting educator, likes to use the start of a new school year to shift more age-appropriate responsibility to kids.
“This is important because we want our kids to grow into capable, responsible people,” she says.
For little kids, that might be something as simple as letting them pick out their own clothes. (Note to parents: It’s more important that they “feel capable and independent than match,” McCready says.)
Elementary-school-age kids can usually pack their own lunches. Not only do they gain confidence, but they’re also more likely to eat the lunch — even if it’s the same thing you would have packed.
Older kids can have the responsibility of managing their calendar and making sure they have all they need for sports practice and assignments.
“At first they may not be thrilled about this new responsibility, and that’s okay,” McCready says. “But marketing is everything.”
She suggests a conversation that starts with something like “You are really growing up and becoming independent in so many ways.” You will begin to see them feel pride in their accomplishments, she says. “Does that mean you’ll never help your kids out? No, of course not.”
McCready says that in order to keep centered while guiding the kids to do their tasks, take care of yourself first. If you don’t, you’ll be barking orders to get the kids ready for school and out the door, and you won’t be able to hold steady on shifting responsibilities to kids. She suggests parents try to get up 30 minutes before the children. Get yourself “fully caffeinated before your kids’ feet hit the floor.” Get ready and dressed, then just focus on helping the kids help themselves when they get up.
“In a world where we’re all sleep-deprived, parents tell me over and over again that it makes all the difference to have a happy and stress-free morning.”
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