As a parent, I wanted the girls to become independent, but the process to get there was filled with many potholes. One of the potholes I hit was when the girls were becoming more physically independent getting ready in the morning. I discovered that I was still busy with them, not physically helping them but verbally. I spent a great deal of effort reminding them, “Did you brush your teeth? Don’t forget to brush your hair.”
Not only was I reminding them of every step, but I would forget which girl I had already told. I would tell Danielle to brush her teeth, then help Lindsey with her bed. On my way to Ashley’s room I mentioned to Danielle to brush her teeth. After I checked to see if Ashley’s shoes were on the right feet, I asked Danielle if she had brushed her teeth. Only Danielle remembered to brush her teeth, the other two were never reminded. I decided it was time to gain control back. I wanted the smooth assembly line I had when I was physically helping them get ready. So I decided that they would ALL do each step together. I had the girls get their clothes on and then wait to go into the bathroom to brush their teeth all at the same time, so I could keep control! Before I could enjoy my moment of success at my new plan I heard fighting in the bathroom. The 3 of them were fighting over the two stools and two sinks. What did I think would happen? I walked away frustrated that my new idea had failed.
Finally, I realized I needed to look ahead, not backwards. I couldn’t return to the way things were; the girls had grown independent and I needed to encourage that, not try to take back control. It took time to move forward, encouraging each of the girls’ growing independence.
What was the original problem? Oh, yeah, I was doing too much asking and reminding. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do it, but rather, I felt like they couldn’t remember to do everything. I needed a way for them to remember, without me being involved.
I wrote a list of things that I was reminding them of every day. I turned the list into ‘The Get Ready Chart’. Only one girl could read, so I wrote the words and drew a picture for each chore. I gathered the girls together and they took turns ‘reading’ the tasks. Together we put the list on the bathroom door so they could read it each day.
They were so excited to get started. I watched and listened as I heard each girl read the chart and do each task at their own speed. Of course, it didn’t take long for the newness of ’The Get Ready Chart’ to wear off. When I realized, they had forgotten to do something, I would take that child by the hand to the chart. Together, we read it like a check list. They would see the thing they forgot and run off to do it. I always took them to the chart, so they would remember to use it as their checklist, not me.
You might ask what I did for rewards when they finished the list. I didn’t give rewards. I had already learned that I would forget to follow-through with a rewards system. I stayed away from them as much as possible.
They were rewarded with their own independence and their ability to get ready at their own speed. I realized I was teaching them to get ready on their own without me reminding them. They were becoming more independent and not just obedient.
Being obedient is not independence. Independence is your child doing things on their own without being told.