During the pandemic kids didn't have the opportunities to take risks, get in trouble, or try hard things. They were often protected from having responsibilities they might normally have. And kids need to fail and experience a variety of challenging situations so they know what they can handle as they get older.
That's why my parenting resolution is to encourage responsibility in my own kids.
How do you know your child is ready for a sleepover, to get a pet or stay home alone? You gradually give them more responsibility so they can practice!
If your child asks for a new responsibility, it’s a good sign he may be ready. Here’s how you can prepare for the big leap:
Step 1: What skills are needed? If you are considering leaving your child home alone, can they dial 911? Do they know your house rules?
Step 2: Identify tasks that are mini-versions of the new responsibility. If your son wants a pet that requires daily care, has he shown he can brush his teeth every day without being reminded? If not, assign him a task to prove he’s ready.
Step 3: Practice the new responsibility. Borrow a pet for a week. Cook a meal together.
Step 4: Check for signs of developmental readiness. Just like babies need decent head control before they can start eating solids and good balance before they can walk, older kids need to reach certain developmental milestones too. But their signs of readiness are a bit trickier. You may have to ask your pediatrician or chat with friends for help with this one.
Here are a few examples to get you started:
Get a mobile phone
The right time to get a mobile phone is when your child spends time away from adults. If you drop her off at a movie with friends or she is waiting after school to be picked up, it’s time. This typically begins sometime around 6th grade.
However, getting a phone is not a one-step process. Kids are irresponsible and phones (and service contracts) are expensive. Set the stage with a tablet or old phone connected to your home Wi-Fi and start with texting from home. They can text you while you are out of the house and text with a friend or sibling. Monitor what they are sending and coach them on appropriate messages. And use this time for them to practice keeping their device charged (and not lost).
Shave her legs
This one is easy. If she asks to shave her legs it’s time. You may have noticed your daughter’s legs are hairy, but until it bothers her, don’t mention it. There’s just no reason to make her aware of her body before she’s ready. On the other hand, if your 10 year-old is bothered by her hairy legs, go ahead and introduce her to the life-long commitment of hair-removal. And use it as an opportunity to start talking about all the body changes that are coming.
Every new task in childhood is a chance for growth.
You know the triumphant look on your toddler’s face when they dress themselves for the first time or pee on the potty? Older kids do that too. You may not see the same silly grin on your tween’s face when they stay home alone for the first time, but I guarantee they feel the same exuberant pride.
That’s why I resolve to give my kids the go-ahead to take on new responsibilities. I will trust my children to tackle new ventures. I will let them fail, keep trying and succeed. I will trust my kids with new responsibilities, even when it is easier to do it myself - because they will gain confidence and experience. It’s the secret to raising successful kids. And I resolve to raise successful kids!