I fondly look back at the days when I was mom to only one little angel. I was that mom who seemed to have all the time in the world to give unhurried baths, prepare elaborate activities, read aloud ten million books and still go to work for half the day.
When Little Sir came, though, and started growing up real fast, I started to feel like I was always running out of time. There were two adorable kids to read a million different books to, two kids to snuggle with for just a little bit more, two kids to give baths to, two kids to plan activities for and, gasp, two kids to train how to be good people in the future. That last one’s the scariest part.
During the first trimester of my pregnancy with Baby Bumblebee, though, when I could hardly keep my eyes open during the day, I stumbled upon a lifesaving thought. I could be a lazy mom!
Admittedly, I was very lazy during that time and left my kids to their own devices for much of the day. But hey, the good thing is, I got to realise that it can actually be great to be a lazy mom. I had some time to get things done, and my kids were learning to be independent.
Don’t get me wrong. Kids do need love and attention, especially when they are babies. But once they’re in the toddler years and beyond, we have to let go at some point.
So, without further ado, let me share my lazy mom’s guide to raising independent kids. Hooray to the lazy mom!
The lazy mum’s guide to teaching your child to be independent
Let them run around dirty Let them give themselves a bath
During a homeschool conference a few years ago , I was so relieved to hear the speaker talking about letting her kids take a bath on their own starting age three. I really thought, then, “Hey! I’m not the only lazy mom out there!”
Joy said that doing so teaches kids early on 1) to care for their bodies and 2) that their privates should remain private. And 3) it’s one less job for her to do! I couldn’t help but grin because all her points are true, right? Especially number three.
I was actually feeling a bit guilty that I’ve been letting Little Sir take a bath by himself… even before my first-trimester-excuse. So I was relieved to hear validation from another mom about teaching your child to be independent and glad to keep on my merry way.
Ignore them Let them play on their own
I love homeschooling my kids but I also love my work. Early on, I knew that I had to have dedicated time for them because they are the reasons why I’m working at home in the first place.
So, here’s what I do. I basically ignore them in the afternoons when I’m working.
I take comfort in the fact that study after study shows that children thrive with unstructured play.1 My kids have their own language (Baby language made up of crazy baby-sounding syllables) and their own world (Babyland), which they happily inhabit every afternoon. Children and curiosity are natural partners, so kids will find an endless number of things to entertain themselves with.
So, no, I don’t entertain my kids all the time, and I don’t feel guilty about ignoring them.
Order them around Let them clean up after themselves
I admit that I’m lazy about keeping the mess out. I can stand it, really! But I don’t want my kids to be lazy, do I? So my solution? Order them around.
These days, I make sure – by being firm and consistent – that they pack away their things every night. I told them that their playroom is their responsibility and that we won’t go to sleep unless it’s spic-and-span. It helps that I fixed the room up with the Montessori idea that everything should have its own place.
My kids are getting the hang of it, even the four-year-old, and I just help them a bit to not make them feel that they are my slaves (I’ve been accused of that!). If they’re already busy cleaning up, though, I just sit pretty and watch them.
I’m sure this can be applied to other chores as well. We’ve had fits and starts with some chores, but we’re not consistent yet. But that comes with the territory. It’s all a part of teaching your child to be independent.
Let them run around naked Let them dress themselves
Unless you want to keep bending down to put on your child’s clothes for him, you have to be lazy and let him do it himself.
We always say in our parenting workshops to let children put on their own shoes as soon as they show interest, even if it takes a million years for him to get done. The sense of accomplishment that you’ll see on your toddler’s face will be priceless. Yes, teaching your child to be independent begins with little things like these. And when they get it – congratulations mom! – you don’t have to do it anymore.
Let them fight it out Let them figure out how to settle differences
I used to fret over what to do when my kids would suddenly stop playing and snarl and even hit each other. I would play referee and immediately separate them from each other.
That is until I read Janet Lansbury’s article on sibling toy taking.2 She cites Magda Gerber who advised to “intervene minimally in disputes between siblings.” I’ve taken this advice to heart and kept myself from settling fights between my two kids, even when they were smaller. During times like these, teaching your child to be independent can be difficult, but keep your goal in mind. Remember that they may find a solution on their own, an important part of raising a creative child.
My heart would pound in dread when a fight would suddenly burst out. But unless they were really about to or were already hurting each other, I mostly just observed and described what was happening without judging them. I was always amazed to see how fast they would go back to hugging each other.
The value of being lazy in settling fights? They learn to solve their issues and get along with each other.
Let them fall Let them learn to pick themselves up
When T was a teeny tiny girl, I was always there to pick her up the moment she was on her knees.
With Little Sir, I realised that he could benefit from not being rescued all the time – a key realisation that helps in teaching your child perseverance. At about 18 months, I already let him wobble up and down inclined areas (ramps). With my heart beating fast, I would keep myself from assisting him.
I celebrated each time he accomplished his mission without falling. But when he did fall, I would hold my breath and show my most calm face, and stay where I was. Lazy, you know.
Practicing this type of mom-laziness is great for kids, though. They get to learn that falling is a natural part of life and that they just have to get up again. Now, how to do this with more serious kinds of falling/failing as they grow older!
Don’t give them food Let them get their own food
I’m guilty of still feeding my little boy his lunch and dinner, especially when he makes his very cute face just for me. The not-so-little girl can also still sometimes demand so much.
So, I’m starting to be lazy in this area too. When Little Sir asks for a sandwich, I ask him to make it himself. I ask him to get the bread and his favourite spread and let him prepare it on his own. I still have to work on meals, though. He eats by himself when he wants to (or maybe when he’s famished?) so I’m sure he can do it. I just have to be lazier.
Advanced lazy mom trick: Kill two birds with one stone and get them hooked on healthy food early on. Eating healthy food goes a long way to strengthen immune system. And it’s been well-established that physical activity and nutrition for health have lots of benefits to development. Teach your child to cook on their own, and they’ll do all this good stuff on their own.
I’m happy with how I stumbled on this lazy-mom thing. Good thing I got pregnant, haha! It does work for me, as I get to have time for other things. And it does work for the little ones to have a lazy mom: they get to practice different skills and learn to rely on and take care of themselves. It prevents them from turning into a horrible brat, and it teaches them resilience and independence. I think I still need to work on being lazier some more, though.
Article republished with permission from: The Learning Basket
To learn more about how to raise resilient children, visit www.aptagro.com.my.
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