Kids and personal responsibility

Amy and Bethany asked for a post about personal responsibility and early elementary-aged kids, so first and second and third grades.

This is a topic that is near and not-at-all-dear to my heart, with a Kindergartener and a third grader. It feels to me like I have spent half my life matching socks and wiping butts and keeping track of all my childrens things, and that at a certain point they should just be able to take responsibility for things like changing their own underwear (No, I should NOT have to specify "a clean pair" when I ask you to put on underwear) and putting the lunchbox I hand them into their backpacks.

I'm wondering what is reasonable to expect from kids at each age. I'm also wondering if we had a list of things that were "reasonable to expect" from 30 years ago if that list would be different from one we come up with now for a given age.

I also think that personality and learning style comes into play a lot here, as my younger one is far less forgetful about physical objects than his older brother is, so my sense of what is reasonable to expect at certain ages is off because of that.

(As a total aside, I read all these stories about how men in Italy do not want to get married because they can continue to live at home and have their mothers do everything for them. Back when my kids were tiny I scoffed at that, and thought those mothers were facilitating a lifestyle that was not sustainable, but now I'm beginning to think that it would actually be easier to do everything for my sons because at least then all of our expectations would be in alignment. Sigh… Paola, any thoughts on this?)

I don't know where I'm going with this, really. My kids get their clothes in the hamper about 50% of the time, at best. And every third day one of them has to run back up to the apartment to get something they forgot, after we come down to leave for school. But they clamor all over each other to help me carry grocery bags, so I must be doing at least something right.

One thing that did help a lot while we were actually doing it was a suggestion from Susan that she used with her own daughter, of having the child write out a schedule of what they needed to do and at what time in the morning. She found that her daughter was far more likely to actually stick to the schedule and complete all the tasks when she made up the schedule herself. So we may go on that plan when spring break is over.

Thoughts? Frustrations? Tips? Any sense of whether your kids are more or less responsible than you were at that age? Are we expecting too much of kids or enabling them?

90 thoughts on “Kids and personal responsibility”

  1. I’ll be interested to hear the comments. Mine are little (3 and 1), so not too much of this yet, but I’ve been debating how much we should be working on putting away toys and so on. The thing is, neither my husband nor I is very neat, plus it can turn into a giant battle of wills over something I don’t care that much about anyway. So it would mostly be about enforcing the rule for the sake of enforcing the rule.

  2. I can’t get them to reliably pick up toys, but dirty clothes ALWAYS make it into the hamper. Not sure what I did to make it that way, but it is POSSIBLE (FYI, kids are 3, 4, and 8) has been WONDERFUL. It has BOTH of the older 2 doing their chores and marking them off more often – they get allowance on Friday if all the chores for the week are checked off and this seems to be a good motivator + a system for marking them done that they like (they seem to LOVE logging in to their own personalized site).

  3. Boy, is this ever kid dependent. My five year old has reliably cleared his dishes without reminders, hung his pajamas, and actually helped with laundry for about two years now.The seven year old will walk to the sink with a dish in one hand and empty cup in the other (after being reminded to clear) and will put down the dish and walk out of the room still holding the cup. He is simply not as aware of his physical surroundings, and he doesn’t see the importance of things like closing his bureau drawers when he’s done getting dressed. I continue to work on it but it is just not as easy for him. I don’t think that I’m making excuses for him; he is just not wired the same way.

  4. A vote here for the kid-generated task list. After one too many battles of wills, I sat down with T. (age 5) and a pack of index cards, and asked him to help me brainstorm all the stuff we have to do (1) before school and (2) at bedtime.For each set, I wrote down his list on individual cards, added a few suggestions, and then he drew pictures of each activity on its card. Then we ordered them (mostly his choice, since I don’t care which comes first, though, for example, toothbrushing should follow breakfast). We taped each set together vertically and hung them on the wall. The card thing was nice because it allowed us to reorder or add things over the next few weeks – whenever we hit a snag or forgot something, we sat down with the cards again.
    They now read:
    Potty & handwashing
    Playtime (10 min.)
    Brush teeth, wash face
    Feed fish
    Get dressed
    Pack backpack/choose item if Share Day
    Potty & handwashing
    Brush teeth, floss, wash face
    Feed fish
    Stories & cuddling
    It’s not like there’s no resistance, but there’s a lot less than before – we can just say, “OK, what’s next on your schedule?” and since he’s the Keeper of the Royal Schedule, it’s his job to tell us. (King Arthur phase, anyone?)
    Now if I could just get him to actually put on his own clothes each day without the assistance of the Royal Valet…

  5. For this I have a system! And it even works some of the time. :)My 1st grader and preschooler each have a list of evening chores.
    Put Pajamas On
    Brush Teeth
    Tidy Room
    Put clothes out for tomorrow
    Feed cat (1st grader only)
    It’s in writing, laminated, posted on their bathroom door. It does not all happen every time by any stretch, but THEORETICALLY each of these things happen after dinner, before Family Time, which is the reward. (Family Time is something we do as a family — sometimes a board game, sometimes we watch How It’s Made, sometimes we do the Wii.) The quicker the chores get done, the more time we have for Family Time. We have a hard stop at 7:15 to read and get to bed, so sometimes we get no Family Time, if chores take too long.
    The preschooler doesn’t have morning chores (except to get himself dressed in the clothes he put out the night before) because he gets awakened early to head to daycare with Dad. I pack up his backpack and make his lunch and he eats breakfast and brushes teeth after he gets there.
    The first grader has this list for morning:
    Brush Teeth
    Put Shoes and coat by door
    Feed cat
    Make Bed
    Put Items in Backpack as needed:
    Lunch [I make this]
    Wednesday folder
    Library Books
    She gets to play until 8:30, then needs to do this list. When it’s finished, she gets me to herself until it’s time to walk out the door (meaning I stop working and sit with her, read, snuggle, whatever).
    We have the lists laminated and posted on the bathroom door. AT LEAST 3 times each time, one or the other tells me they’re done, and I say, “did you do everything on your list?” and they haven’t, so they go back. The preschooler can’t read, but his sister helps him and he knows how many things it is that he’s supposed to do, so he can keep count.
    I use natural consequences for this stuff. If homework doesn’t go into the backpack, she doesn’t turn it in on time and she doesn’t get the sticker at school. If they don’t put clothes out the night before, they don’t get a say in what they wear, because I choose in the morning.
    As with most systems, this one works only as well as the adults supervising it, so it’s not always a success, but I think the keys are:
    (1) It’s pared down to pretty much the essentials
    (2) They are all things they can do on their own
    (3) There’s a built-in immediate reward
    (4) There’s no way to get ‘behind’; each set of chores stands on its own (I use “Tidy Room” rather than “Room Tidy” because it’s the action they’re required to perform, not necessarily a finished state they need to get to — at this age, I just want to instill the tidy-up-before-bed habit, so depending on the starting point there might still be a quasi-mess in there when they are “done”)

  6. My boys are 1st and 4th grades, and I feel like they’re usually more capable than I think they are. I’m with Moxie on the personality thing though; my 4th grader is WAY more forgetful than my 1st grader. It was a source of frustration for quite some time, but now I just see it as part of who he is and we work together on strategies for remembering things. If I have an important note to send to school though, it goes in with the 1st grader!Anyway, I try to do a lot of Love and Logic type stuff with them. If they leave something at home, I typically let them deal with the consequences (within reason). Wearing snow boots to gym when shoes are forgotten, not getting to check out a new library book when a book is left home, eating a hot lunch they don’t like when sack lunch is forgotten, etc. We make them pay to replace lost items, but increased their allowances to accommodate for it.
    Calendars and set routines help us a ton. We set up the AM routine in September and it only took a couple of months before I didn’t have to issue constant reminders. They can now get themselves completely ready for school without help.
    I’ve also noticed a “trickle-down” effect for independence. We re-arranged the kitchen so that the boys could get their own breakfasts and now our 5 yr old daughter can make her own breakfast. When our oldest was 5 I wouldn’t have thought that was possible!
    I’ve found that fostering independence is always more work at the start; you don’t see the payoff until you’ve been working at it a while. That balance is key– sometimes the benefit of independence at a certain age is just not worth the work involved. And that’s different for every parent and kid!

  7. Now does someone have a suggestion for how to get a 6th grader to flush every time?? I don’t know why the 4th grader can remember this but the 6th grader cannot. Last time I threatened to make him start flushing MY turds if I had to flush one more of his.Ugh.

  8. Amen on the “personality and learning style” having so much to do with it. My vote is to sometimes let the kids fail with regard to the little things. In Moxie’s example, maybe experiment with one day not letting the kids run back up to the apt to retrieve a forgotten item. Let them live without it for the day (natural consequences) – see if it doesn’t sink in. (I’m not talking about items that would shame them in front of their peers, obviously.) Small lessons over very small things like that as a kid added up to teach me to be self-sufficient and prepared.

  9. I would be super curious to see what was expected when we were kids (70s-80s) and also when our parents were kids (50s-60s). I wonder if it would be more in some categories, less in others, but about the same overall.I find that my 1st grader is very anxious to take responsibility in areas where I am most reluctant to let her–when she was 6 I let her shower herself after she begged though I really didn’t want to deal with the mess. There IS a mess but now I love not having to deal with it. Next she’s asking to fix more of her own food–and though I HATE the mess in the kitchen, I’m probably going to let her bc it seems more successful when she initiates a chore/task.

  10. I read that once a child can tie his shoes and write his own name with a capital letter at the beginning and lower case balance that he would be old enough to wipe his own behind.It’s not true. It’s personality type dependent. I have a child with great fine motor skills who also has a giant fear of “getting it wrong” who would rather sit on the toilet and cry than try to clean his own behind. I’ve been taking a tough love approach, but it’s a struggle.
    I’d also like to know at what age I can expect a child to brush his own teeth and get all sides of each tooth clean.

  11. I have 4.5 yr old boy-girl twins and I would say they are pretty responsible. For us, the key is giving them enough time. Tasks that would take me two minutes to complete, will take them twenty minutes because they are busy goofing off with each other. This requires me to be really hands off if they are actually going to do it by themselves. If I am right there pushing them along, and reminding, then they aren’t really doing it by themselves. I plan a lot of extra time into our morning and evening routines.Most of the responsibilities are things that other people have mentioned. One thing that I love, is that they unpack their lunchboxes as soon as they get in the door. They rinse off the ice packs, get out the step stool and stick them back in the freezer! It is great, because I would have a hard time remembering to do this on top of the million other things I’m multi-tasking when we get home. I work to be sure they know that I appreciate their independence.

  12. I should probably start worrying about this again, but I have low expectations. I expect a helpful attitude and a willingness to do the job when asked. The 4th grader dresses herself and bathes and manages her homework. The 1st grader – not so much.When my daughter had a speech IEP at 3, they did a home visit and the school social worker asked about her personal competencies -dressing, eating, tying, cleaning, etc. And she was 3 and even with my generous rating, she was not very good at this things. I was rueful and embarrassed. And he stopped me and said that his own kids didn’t manage their own dressing and food prep and cleanup until much later. I took that to mean ease up. I remind my kids of things all the time – take your back pack, are your shoes in the closet? Just as my husband helps me when I lose my purse in the house. Or I help him when he leaves his cell phone in the couch cushions.

  13. I really think this has to be kid-personality dependent. I know I and my husband both tend to be pretty spacey – like someone above mentioned, I just don’t see that cupboards are open. I don’t care or notice. My husband notices and it annoys him, but he doesn’t notice the trash he leaves on the counter above the garbage can. Which annoys me. I am not sure how to translate that into kids. I am kind of at a loss about it. In my marriage, we generally just take care of the stuff that annoys us. So he shuts cupboards, I throw away bottle caps and napkins. I don’t even know how to deal with that for kids though. :-/

  14. Personality and style definately have a lot to do with how easy this is to develop, but some of it is about developing good habits… *especially* if you tend to be unaware of your surroundings, if you are in the habit of putting away your shoes, hanging up your coat and emptying your lunch bag you’ll find it much easier.We have recently hit on a workable system for household responsibilities. Now that my oldest (6 and 8) are reading, we have a half page posted in each room with bullet points (5 or 6 items) on what needs to be done for that room to be “clean”… and there is an adult column and a kid column.
    So the kids might have “Dust bookshelves, pick up and put away all DVD cases neatly, put all toys into their baskets, tidy the entryway, clear the end and coffee tables of books and dishes”… adults would have “run vaccumn, dust above waist height, fold blankets neatly”
    I expect my 8 year old to be able to follow that list in a relatively timely fashion with few reminders to stay on task, I expect my 6 year old to need more reminders. No one seems to work fast enough to suit me, but that’s maybe unrealistic on my end. I just think the bathroom is a 5 minute job, not a 25 minute job.
    Because there is an adult column on the list, an adult is automatically “in the loop”… can supervise, get the duster out of the closet, provide windex for the mirror etc.
    We run through this routine twice a week and the house is tolerable. Not great but tolerable.
    What I like about it is that the expectations are clear, the tasks are manageable and scheduled. Other than the bi weekly cleanup, I expect you to put your laundry in the hamper, hang up your coat and deal with your dirty dishes, and do tasks as assigned (feed a pet, do your homework).

  15. I have always given my boys (now 7 & 10) a lot of responsibility.They’ve each made a To Do chart for us, one for morning routines and one for after school.
    I have written down my expectations for the older son and stuffed it in his (mostly incomplete) baby book so I can compare to what I expect of his little brother when he’s at the same age.
    I assume I have higher expectations than most- for example, my 7 yo now uses the stove, chops with a real knife and cleans bathrooms. None of his friends are “old enough” to do those things according to their parents.

  16. I agree that personality and learning style have a lot to do with our expectations regarding personal responsibility. And I’d like to put forth an additional criteria: parents’ own expectations of themselves with regard to personal responsibility.(Before I go further, I will divulge the fact that I am a parent to a 10 month old, and so may be full of crap on this – it could be a case of “I was a prefect parent before I had kids.” However.)
    In my own family of origin, both my parents had pretty poor keep-track-of-your-things, stay-organized and be-on-time sills. It is no surprise that now I am no great personal responsibility star.
    I now wish that my parents had recognized this deficit in our family culture and in a effort to teach me some valuable life skills, placed higher expectations on me. I think I would have benefitted from a more methodical approach to teaching these skills. Perhaps by reminding me to do a mental inventory before leaving the house, or create lists, or schedule to help me get places on time. And having clear logical consequences if I forgot something. I’m not sure how well it would have worked – like I said, I haven’t yet reached this stage in my own parenting yet – but I do wish they had been harder on me and expected more from me.

  17. I struggle with this one a lot. I had huge chore responsibilities as a child. I ended up poisoning myself accidentally by mixing bleach and ammonia and landing in hospital, so it is a big deal in my head.With my son (5) what seems to work is routine in which everyone participates. So for example his father’s taught him to rinse the sink out after you brush your teeth and wash your face. I’ve taught him dirty clothes go in the hamper. We’ve both more-or-less taught him to put his own plate and cutlery in the dishwasher (it’s a bit hit and miss).
    But he’s not really doing those things entirely on his own; we supervise. But I can’t think of the last time I had to remind him about the hamper. He is kind of like that by personality though, and Montessori has helped a lot.
    On toy clean-up it’s very hit and miss because I, particularly, have a bad habit of rushing him to the next activity.
    For school stuff we have a shelf in the hall that is the “cubby” for things going in and out. It works much of the time.
    I guess in writing that out I consider my role to set up an environment and a rhythm that supports him in taking responsibility and then keeping him on track. But as for which responsibility matches which age, I’m still working it out.

  18. On Saturday mornings, we have a family chore time. DS (3.5) gets to pick what chore he wants to do from a pack of index cards. Essentially, they are things like dusting (low areas), vacumming the front entrance way and the stairs with the dustbuster, cleaning my lower kitchen cupboards (water and sponge), sweeping the front stoop, sweeping the back deck, etc. We bought him his own little broom for sweeping. DS LOVES chore time. It’s something that we all do together, and he seems to enjoy helping.Toys are always put away before bedtime because any toy that is left out is put away for a week.

  19. @expatriababy”I now wish that my parents had recognized this deficit in our family culture and in a effort to teach me some valuable life skills, placed higher expectations on me.”
    You can’t teach what you don’t know yourself!

  20. @sarcasticarrie, my/my son’s dentist (who is a mom and whose judgment I trust) tells me kids cannot brush their own teeth effectively until they are 8. I buy this; my compromise is I do one tooth-brushing/day for my son (4) and he does one … I figure that’s a fair balance between learning (his) and cleaning (mine), oh, and maintaining my sanity.These comments are making interesting reading for me as so many of them seem to relate a neat/clean house (including personal spaces) and personal responsibility. I consider myself “personally responsible” but I do not keep a neat/clean house, nor do I want to. I’d rather have large furry dogs that bring grunge and hair into our home and time to take those dogs for long walks in the woods (hey, I can dream!) than (borrowing from @wookie’s comments about what her 6 & 8 year old do) have bookshelves that have been dusted, all the toys in their baskets, and the end and coffee table cleared of books (though I’m with @wookie on the dishes). That’s in no way intended as a criticism of those of you who do want a clean/neat house (and expect your kids to contribute to that goal, something that makes good sense to me) but I’ll admit I really don’t equate vacuuming, dusting, or washing windows with “personal responsibility.” In our household we’ve found there are a few different irritants that drive each person nuts and more or less agreed to try to minimize those irritations (no leaving dirty dishes in the sink), but we’re otherwise pretty minimalist, and happy that way. It might drive you nuts to do this in your house (and in that case you shouldn’t), but I don’t see that our leaving our beds unmade each and every day (by mutual consent) makes the world, or even our corner of it, a worse place?

  21. My kids are still on the young end of this scale at two and almost six. So far all I have expected is a good attitude and a willingness to help. (My goal for myself is to allow for more time and be better at planning so that I don’t get tempted to just do it quickly myself.) It is a great system since everybody learns how to do things and can participate at their own skill level. For my older one I now feel that I should start pushing a bit more for him taking over the actual responsibility and ownership in some situations – I just find it hard to let go of control. That and I hate nagging….

  22. @Alexicographer: I agree with you, but also wanted to mention that since we’re talking about early elementary age children, household chores are an easy first step. Other than personal care and remembering his things for school, my first grader doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to exercise personal responsibility. As my older son approaches middle school, I can see that changing. Growing up, I had a lot of household chores in elementary school but almost none in high school. School work, jobs, extra-curriculars, etc.– there were more than enough opportunities for responsibility there!

  23. I’m reminded of some old commercial…if it absolutely has to get there overnight…do it youself (or something to that effect).I do not equate personal responsibility with cleaning the house. I take it to mean taking care of oneself (like brushing own teeth, dressing self, taking a shower by yourself, remembering you have homework, etc).
    And this goes to our discussion the other day about 3rd grade: if they aren’t giving the kids tools and skills for remembering homework (like having an assignment book and taking a special time where everyone writes down assignments or passing out syllabum), then there is a certain subset of kids who will just not remember.
    I write all kinds of notes to myself (get gas! drop off mail! buy bread) and when something is really important (and usally different from the routine), I put a sticky note on the front door, on my cell phone, on my key chain, or on the dashboard of my car in front of the spedometer so I can remember. If it’s that important, I need help remembering.
    Also (stream of consciousness much?) this reminds of how every once in a while (tragically) someone forgets that their child is in the car and goes to work. Usually it is the parent who is not the regular drop-off person or he/she is taking the kid somewhere unusual due to a break in routine (sick kid, different work location, etc). The reminders are things like put your purse in the back seat next to the car seat, put a stuffed animal on top of your purse/lunch/briefcase/laptop, etc. Use visual reminders to help you be respnsible.
    We need to teach our kids these tricks and skills and can’t just expect them one day to remember that they have homework and need to bring it and the appropriate resources home with them.

  24. Not a parent for the ages in question but I agree with whoever previously said that to allow the child real responsibility you have to plan for how long it will take the child to do the task vs an adult. As a parent of a three and a half year old, I find myself doing a lot of the things he can do for himself simply because it saves time. The only way to let him learn to do these things for himself on a regular basis is to give him the time and space to do it. I’ve set up the routine – change out of pjs, go potty, brush teeth, put on clean clothes, etc. and that’s pretty much on autopilot. I know he can actually do all of the above by himself (minus the clean teeth scrubbing I guess) but he rarely does any of it without me there assisting.

  25. Okay, I’m still dressing my 4.5 year old, most days. I have fleeting moments of shame about this, but whatever.Her one and only chore is to put the clean silverware away from the dishwasher. MAN, do I get a lot of bellyaching about how hard her life is when I ask her to do her chore!
    On the other hand, stuff that is just built in to our day, she usually does without much complaining, although she is at that super annoying, head-in-the-clouds 4-5 year old stage, so it takes constant reminding and checking. I feel like an ogre sometimes!
    I saw an EXPONENTIAL increase in the putting away of toys once I invested about $50 in plastic bins (with Snap-on lids so the toddler can’t get into them when they’re closed!) and labeled them for my fledgling reader.
    She’s like my husband: she craves order but doesn’t have the internal equipment to create it. When I make a star chart for chores (or behavior), or make a system for easy toy cleanup, she’s all for it. She just can’t get there by herself. I’m both learning patience with the firstborn, and crossing my fingers that my secondborn is more like me! lol
    I think for me, what is hardest for me to remember is that they are Little people; they still need HELP. Their world is big and pretty brutal. Sometimes just offering your kid a safe place to breathe can help them come to terms with what needs to be orderly in their lives.
    At least, that’s sure what *I* could use!

  26. I have a just-turned-7 girl. (Still recovering from the party!) I credit her Montessori preschool teacher with teaching her to keep track of her stuff – it was a school that went on a daily field trip and they had lots of routines implemented to make that work with 3-5 year olds…and Mouse always has her stuff neatly in her backpack, knows which things are important, etc. So do the other kids who went there, but I think that teacher had some special kind of kid voodoo.With homework and piano practice, it’s mainly just reminders and a willingness to be near her while she does it so she has company. (And after reading that NYT thing about how you absorb more if you study in different environments, I’m more than happy to have her do her homework curled up on the living room floor if that works for her.)
    Mouse is expected to put her dirty clothes in the hamper (80%), get herself dressed (95% but only recently), deal with her own potty stuff (all set except if ill but she was still getting her butt wiped 6 months ago I’m pretty sure), start her own bath (50%), clear her plate (50%), set the table (requires lots of nagging), and help reasonably cheerfully with whatever else we need to do. We are blessed to be able to afford regular housecleaning right now, so most of her cleaning chores are tidying-related (and any urgent mess, obviously, though she can get help with those just as I or Mr. C can). She shocked me by wanting to take responsibility for caring for her newly pierced ears, and I’ve been nervous, but she’s been doing a great job so far – she watched the video and read the instructions and is doing it properly and conscientiously.
    We must not have hit the terrible 7s that everyone warns about yet, because the last few months have been a big leap in this area. No doubt there will be a regression to come. BUT, she is really slow in the morning, which is my biggest difficulty with her right now. She knows what time she needs to do everything, she just gets distracted and talks instead of chewing and finds things to read and generally we’re running for the bus every day. Anybody got anything on that?

  27. I’m disappointed I haven’t read more on the butt wiping front! I was seriously looking forward to reading some hopeful comments that my butt wiping days are limited. We’ve experimented with letting almost-4 year old Rosie do it herself… with disastrous, panty-throwing-away results (because I am seriously DONE with scrubbing s$!t from clothes, let me tell you).@sarcasticarrie’s comment: “I read that once a child can tie his shoes and write his own name with a capital letter at the beginning and lower case balance that he would be old enough to wipe his own behind.” Good lord if I have to wait until she knows both upper and lower case letters and can write… Well she may just run out of underwear because I’ve HAD IT with the butt wiping!
    Seriously, at what age can a kid reliably do it? Anyone? Please?

  28. DS is just 2.75, so we’re more in the phase of instilling the concepts if personal responsibility, rather than DS taking in much by himself.However, so happy to have daycare to help with all of this. Thanks to DS’ great educator he’s starting to do much more on his own. Most of the work right now is related to dressing and potty training. But seeing what he acomplishes at daycare is a good reminder for me to let him try to do things himself. I think that especially when you have an only child it’s easy (easier?) to keep doing everything for them. But when you have multiple kids to manage, I imagine that it just becomes a necessity that the kids develop some autonomy. There are only so many hands and hours in the day.
    Like others have said, you have to build it into your schedule. So right now, sometimes I let him practice, and sometimes I do it. There are a few exceptions like putting on boots, turning on the cold water tap that DS insists on doing himself. And so he does. And he just has a natural inclination for some things (like closing any cupbord door or drawer that is open. We’ll start soon with some charts (potty & am/pm routines), and I suspect this will work well to get him to be responsible for himself. He often helps me get dinner ready when we get home,
    and I’m planning on keeping that going as long as we can.

  29. I was really interested to see so many families with a space cadet older child and a more competent (at order and routine) younger child.Same thing over here. It’s partly a personality difference, and partly that older child missed out on a year of parent-training during a craptastic pregnancy… but it also seems in our case that younger child is enormously benefiting from seeing her older sib at work. Not so much that we’re better parents (although we probably are… sorry about that, older child!) as that she gets the benefit of an older sibling to observe and learn from.
    Re: what was expected of us, my parents divorced when I was nine, and I was expected to pack everything I needed (shampoo, clean clothes, school stuff, everything) entirely by myself. It was too much. I think I could have done it if they had helped me learn the skills, but I needed more gentle assistance, breaking it down into manageable chunks than they were able to give (being both time-strapped and distracted by their own lives).
    We have, not surprisingly, landed on teaching small chunks of personal responsibility a tiny bit at a time, as the children seem ready. It matters more to me that I feel very sure of what I am expecting than that I expect the maximum possible.

  30. @Laura yes, fair enough.@mom2boy you write, “The only way to let him learn to do these things for himself on a regular basis is to give him the time and space to do it.” Well, yes. But as someone who’s still prone to just “doing it for” my 4 y.o., I often think of my earlier-in-life experiences teaching small kids to ride horses. My general observation then was that if you took 2 kids and started one riding at 5 y.o. and one at 7, the 7 y.o. would “catch up” to the 5 y.o. (master the same skill set) by about … 7y2m. I’m probably exaggerating for effect, but my sense is that there’s a type of physical and cognitive skills that really do arrive with age (assuming of course that the kids have *some* opportunities to develop and interact with other humans), and that striving to achieve them earlier is very … slow … going. That’s not to say that 5 y.o.s shouldn’t be riding (or whatever age shouldn’t be doing whatever), but other than “for its own sake” (i.e. because it’s fun, a family activity, whatever), I’m not 100% sure that it’s worthwhile (that the early effort is effectively counterbalanced by the results relative to what would have been achieved almost as soon after starting working on it noticeably later) to start practicing “XX” (say butt-wiping) at some early age rather than just waiting.

  31. This makes me wonder if sometimes I don’t really believe in ‘personal responsibility’. Sure, I want them to learn some lifeskills overtime – I think by the time they move out they should be able to make an assortment of nutritious meals, clean and fold clothes and make small talk with people they’ve just met. I’m not clear on how making them do “chores” helps me with that – model the life skill, teach the life skill, give opportunity to do the life skill, yes. And hopefully it catches by the time they’re 35 (that’s when kids move out now, right?). I think I’d rather work on the collective responsibility of keeping our home liveable and our family a kinder and gentler place to be.Somehow, my very capable mother forgot to teach me how to wash floors. When I moved out and needed to finally wash a floor, I phoned my girlfriend and asked how to do it. We had a good laugh, and now I know how to wash floors. I figure at least my mom taught me how to learn what I don’t know… I’m going to try that and see how it goes.

  32. I had a whole post devoted to chores etc. And things are not really fixed. We did try a chart for a while, but personality issues emerged (obsessed with making the chart pretty and ticking things off instead of actually doing what was required).I don’t know. My younger one is on the ball. He needs reminders most of the time, but just a quick “please do X” and he does it right away. Older one will never do X without multiple reminders, cajoling, or negotiating. Or, you know, yelling. I am tired and frustrated by this.
    For school I have to try to be on top of her because the last thing I want is a call from the office to tell me she forgot her lunch, forgot her gym shoes, forgot her art supplies on art day, etc. We live 2 blocks from school and I work at home, but that’s not how I want to spend my days. (She would not roll with it if these things were forgotten.) But she carries her library books back and forth for months because nobody at school reminds her to exchange them. Even if I tell her at 8:00 to get new books by 10:00 she forgets.

  33. @My Kids Mom, my 5 yo is happy to help. Like I use the helping as a way to ward off cranky tantrums. I don’t think this is normal, to be able to say “I know you’re tired; instead of fighting with your sister, why don’t you help me scrub the toilet?” He loves to cook also. I am running with it as far as I can. (Being allowed to turn on the stove is one of his Life Goals.)But by the same token, I can’t expect that the almost 7yo (the personal responsibility “problem” child) is going to be able to help in the same way. At this point I just want her to clean up after her art projects, put away her books, and hamper/sink for dirty clothes/dishes.
    @sarcasticcarrie, I agree that personal responsibility and chores are not the same, but I think at elementary school age they run into each other. Like picking up toys/books/dirty clothes so that the dog doesn’t get into them –> straightening up to a reasonable, age-appropriate level. Putting dirty clothes in the hamper doesn’t mean doing the laundry though.

  34. This topic is really relevant for me today. I asked my almost 3 year old to help me with dinner tonight – she peeled the veggies and cut up the celery (with a butter knife). She LOVED it and enjoyed her veggies because she had some ownership over the process. It was great having her company in the kitchen as we cooked too. It is so tempting to get put off by the mess, but so worth the results.

  35. @alexicographer – I wasn’t thinking so much that he wouldn’t be able to develop the skill later. He has the skill now as in the case of being able to get dressed and get undressed. I was just thinking that it is easier to develop a habit than to break one. If I keep going with the habit of dressing him myself, I think I’d have a more difficult time getting him to do it on his own a few years from now. No, I don’t think I’ll be dressing him as he goes off to college but there are quite a few years in between.My ex and I were together for five years and her son was four when we got together. He still was reluctant to dry himself off as a nine year old because she always did it for him. As he got older he would either beg her to do it or just go dripping wet to his room. The natural consequence of putting clothes on a wet body didn’t seem to help. I’m sure by the time he hits puberty he’ll figure it out but this topic made me think about it. Same thing with cutting food, brushing teeth, etc. She did it all for him. I’m not passing judgement – I was sort of just thinking out loud that I seem to be falling into that, too, as a matter of convenience.

  36. I’m reading these posts with gusto. Back when I felt I had a good handle on the correct way to raise children (meaning way before I was actually a mom), my mil overheard me talking to a pregnant friend, a mother of girls who was now having a son. In all my pre-kid know-it-all-ness I was going on and on about how if I had a son I would try to keep his future wife/partner in mind. Any son of MINE would be very used to housework, laundry, cooking, yada yada. My mil wasn’t supposed to even be at this gathering but had crashed and overheard me. She did absolutely everything for her family. I got a tap on my shoulder and a mouth full of crow. So, this ironic universe being what it is, I had a son. And yes, my mil is watching very closely. My son is not even 3 yet, but I see now how easy it is to just do everything myself, but also how bittersweet letting go of some of it is.I was doing all my own laundry by 12 or 13. My older sister and I were in charge of after dinner dishes well before that. I have a friend whose son became in charge of dinner one night a week in 7th grade. So far, those are my loose plans to go by.
    Now if I could only find the patience to let my son figure out how to undress and dress himself.

  37. This is a surprisingly difficult question. The kids in our house are 17, 8, and 3. For the 8 year old, she understands that she’s supposed to take care of her things (but doesn’t want to) and we mostly let her be responsible for that – right now she doesn’t know where her DS or her MP3 player are (neither do I). I suspect that they are in the miasma of her room. When asked, she’ll take care of her dishes from the table. She will take care of her dirty clothes, if you catch her when she is between things. She’s good at loading up her backpack with her things for school (she did have to figure that out the hard way). And she’s pretty decent about putting her water bottle and lunch bag in the kitchen in the evening. Starting to think about giving her specific jobs to do, but still working on which jobs, how to motivate her, and get her started with the least amount of push-back.

  38. I agree about the patience. My 3.5 year old can do a lot for herself and she does at her Montessori school. However, at school, they have lots of time to do everything at their own pace. When we’re trying to get ready for school/work in the morning, there’s not that same amount of time, and I end up doing things for her or constantly trying to move her along. I saw a parent hack ( that I haven’t tried yet, but looks promising, especially for older kids. Put post-it notes or some other marker on an analog clock. Then the child can look at the clock themselves and know when they need to start or finish different tasks. Hmm, maybe I need this for myself.

  39. What if you have a space cadet husband? I am not making the man a “get out of the house with everything you need” chart – he’s 42 and has a PhD. I’m kidding, mostly, but I know a zillion adults who are not as organized as some 6 year olds. It’s totally personality!In terms of skills, my 7 year old can wipe her butt (though she’s more confident when we buy toddler wipes) and take a shower by herself and brush her teeth pretty well (we have an electric). My 4 year old still has to be reminded not to pee in his pants, is afraid of the shower, and needs his teeth brushed for him. I think 5-6 is a big leap in terms both of physical dexterity and organizational skills – but again, it varies considerably by personality. And god bless the elementary schools that have a standardized weekly folder that goes home every Monday with announcements and fliers, and a standardized agenda that goes home every day with homework assignments written in it.

  40. @ ACJ: “I think I’d rather work on the collective responsibility of keeping our home liveable and our family a kinder and gentler place to be.” I agree, though for me, these are the same thing – a lot of personal responsibility is about participation in community. The child does these things for himself because he is an individual (and small children at least take a lot of pride in doing “real things” with you or on their own, so that doing it for them can deprive them of that pride) and because he is a member of a community. It would make sense to me that different aspects of this dynamic would be stressed at different times in a child’s life.I have a question for you guys with older kids. Mine are almost 3 and almost 1. The 3 year old is at that magical toddler age where he loves to help, even pick up, if we create the space and participate with him. He loves order and routine and doing things on his own. I know that’s developmental – most toddlers are like that. We’ve always encouraged him to help. But does this naturally change with age, even in a child formerly helpful? Or is it possible to create a continuum – ie, habits promoted early become integrated later on? Or is it too individual-dependent to even generalize?

  41. @Melba – we’re experimenting with the 3.75 DS wiping his own butt too. What’s working here is letting him take a pass, and then we do a second pass to check. So far this is good, good enough that on occasion, if I’m occupied or nursing DD and he asks me to “check” I tell him it’s fine and he can be all done. No underwear disasters yet. Also, we use the toddler wipes too.

  42. I’m assuming that most kids can wipe themselves by kindergarten? Teachers don’t wipe butts in kindergarten do they?

  43. @mom2boy yes, fair enough, and I do puzzle over that one some myself. One partial compromise I’ve reached is that if it’s somewhere I need us to go — preschool — I (e.g.) put his shoes on for him. And if it’s someplace he wants to go — the park — he can let me know he’s ready to go once he’s gotten his shoes on, and if they don’t get put on, we don’t go. However, I’ve also learned to be pretty adaptable about what I allow him to do barefoot (generally OK, provided it’s outside and not unsafe), and realized there’s a bigger grey area about I need/he wants than I’d have thought before becoming a mom. He may want to go to the park (perhaps not enough to put his shoes on) but I *need* him to go to the park so that, for pete’s sake, he can run off 20% of that excess energy and stop driving me nuts! So this is not a hard-and-fast rule for me, but is sometimes a useful guiding principle.@flea I am your husband! I once (as a married adult, and pre-kid, so no excuse there) lost my wallet, called and cancelled/replaced all the credit cards, etc., and then found it under a pile of clothes in the bedroom. Sigh.

  44. I am following this with interest. I have a 3.5 year old boy who can do all kinds of things at daycare — put on coats, shoes, mittens, wipe his bottom, pick up toys — that he seems unable (unwilling, really) to do at home. Most of the time I’m okay with this since a lot of this — the getting on coats, shoes etc. — is something that needs to happen in a timely fashion since I want to walk out the door, drop him off at daycare and go to work before sundown.The one thing I insist upon at home is picking up — things that he throws on the floor, and doing a nightly clean-up of toys. But boy is it a struggle, nag-fest. We all do it together, but that doesn’t make it fun for my boy. There’s a lot of reminding, nagging, cajoling, threatening and then dispensing of time-outs, etc. Not every night, but frequently. He is a stubborn one. So my problem is really that I hate that instilling this most basic principle — pick up after yourself — has turned into such a struggle. I’m looking for advice about that. Anyone have good tips on consequences that work, ways to reduce the struggle?

  45. We don’t do as well on this front as I would like… I’ve been mulling this over since yesterday… a lot of it, I think, has to do with my (the woman) being the organizer and my husband being what we will politely call the space cadet. We have two daughters. I’m always kind of aware (maybe overly aware) of the gender lessons I may be teaching… Now, our division of labor in the household isn’t because my husband is a chauvinist—it’s because he’s a total slob. But how does that division read to my girls?Also, my husband does the morning routine and he does it differently than I would. Now, it’s awesome he’s that Dad that makes lunches and walks to the bus stop, etc, but he definitely errs on the side of doing more for them than a lot of commenters here. And the beds don’t get made, but hair does get brushed. So my girls do see the man doing the “traditionally” female work there, and that’s great. But, no, things aren’t as buttoned up as I would like. But it’s not my job to make those rules for him. And it would be wrong of me to try. I mean, I would LOVE to have those checklists for the morning routine. But he’s the one with ownership of that time. And I’m grateful for it.
    That said, Younger (age 5) loves to help with dinner, and will help set the table. Eldest (age 7) puts books away and cleans up her room (when prompted). They love to help me clean the bathroom, mop the floors, wipe anything down.

  46. @Susan. If you use Love & Logic then you’d say “Do you want to pick up the toys or do you want me to? OK, me? Do you know what happens to toys that I pick up? They go into this bin for {insert length of time}”I tried this once and I have never seen Legos get picked up so fast in my life.

  47. Ugh, I’m in the midst of navigating this too. One of my challenges is getting my husband to follow through, too. He had very little personal responsibility growing up, and although he agrees in principle that this is important, in practice, not so much.Another is that I feel like I’m constantly nagging my son to complete a job. For example, when he is putting away his socks, he allows himself to become distracted on the way from the bathroom to his hamper in his bedroom closet, and socks end up in the hallway. So I remind him that he forgot the socks, and the socks get a little closer, and they’ll be in next to the closet. Maybe this means he’s not ready for this task?
    Another personal responsibility issue that I could use some help addressing is how my son should be responsible for his own things. So if he loses his favorite matchbox car, for example, he becomes upset and insists I help him find it. He insists he can’t find it on his own, and then I try to explain why it’s his job, not mine, to take care of his things. We go round and round, and he just becomes more upset. So is this really about him being disorganized, and not knowing how to find things and take care of things? And if so, how do I teach him that? (I don’t remember how I learned.) Or is this him trying to manipulate me?

  48. @ Susan: Rather than use a consequence-punishment sequence with our 3 yo, we have had great success with a “Clean it up!” song. I sing and clap along with the music and we go around the room together cleaning things up. It took some consistency and repetition to make the connection, but now when the song comes on by accident, he will occasionally go into a cleaning frenzy. (Maybe this only work with younger ones, though?) We learned the trick from our wonderful home daycare provider, who always used songs as transitions.

  49. @flea- I’d say that at least 50% of my job (sometimes) is making the equivalent of the “get out of the house on time” charts for a bunch of PhDs…. (One of my roles is to be a project manager, and that has a lot in common with “able to get everyone out of the house on time”- that’s a transferable skill note for anyone looking to re-enter the workforce, btw. I would totally buy a pitch from a former SAHM that she learned how to project manage because she could get her two kids out of the house on time. There’s more to it than that, but the underlying skill is the same.)Anyway, does it make you feel better or worse to know that there is probably someone in his work life who totally feels your pain?
    I haven’t got much on the personal responsibility topic since my kids are still quite young. But already, I can see personality differences. The 4 year old still prefers help getting ready for her bath some (OK, most) days. The 18 month old is trying really hard to figure out how to do it herself.

  50. Oh, and @SarcasiCarrie, I’m totally with you on the issue with wiping your own behind. I have a 4 year old who can play with those damn Polly Pocket dolls no problem, but refuses to wipe her own butt. At home. She’ll do it at school.So I’m considering it to be her way of telling me she’s not ready to be that big of a kid yet, and figure she’ll get over it eventually. (This bugs my husband more than me and he tries to make her do it herself, which may be why I’m the designated butt-wiper in my family.)

  51. My seven year old probably isn’t independent enough- at home at least. But what I’ve discovered is that her love language is acts of service. Her pleas for help with dressing or school stuff are much more about wanting my attention and interaction than actually needing assistance. She feels loved when Mama gets the jammies for her, and I’m okay with that. She is capable, and at some point she won’t want me around.That said, I was cooking on the stove at six. I was in charge of my laundry at 8. Our standards for our kids are vastly different.

  52. The spammers are channeling Yoda now! Very interesting and informative sharing it is!One thing that has worked for us in the past (with potty training and some other things) is to give a deadline with lots of warning, after which point there will be a new responsibility. For example: When this box of diapers runs out, you won’t wear diapers anymore (this was after he was completely trained but just liked to have a diaper to poop in). When you turn four, you’ll be able to clear your own plate from the table. When you’re four and a half, you’ll be able to wipe your own bottom. This one is coming up…stay tuned.
    He seems to accept that it’s the way of the world that when you get to a certain age you can do (and should do) certain things yourself. Don’t know how long this particular strategy will work, but it does now!

  53. All I can say is thank Christ for bidets!! Both my kids are whizzes at washing there butts, but god-awful at wiping them.The Italian mamma in me has realised that whether I insist on the kids being personally responsible for certain age appropriate chores and activities ( putting cup and plate on counter after eating, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, cleaning toys up after they have finished using them) or not, they are still more than likely to be living under my roof until they are well into their thirties! Blame it on the ridiculous cost of rent and living in general and the ever-shrinking pay packet. Honestly a typical monthly salary here is around €1100 and rent around €800.

  54. Monkey is only 6 months but I also have a “space cadet” husband… though really I would call him somewhat of a slob. We tend to argue about things that “he doesn’t care about” and that I “obsess over for no reason.” I can’t stand clutter/mess- makes me anxious. It doesn’t seem to bother him. Can’t wait to see what Monkey is like.Also want to suggest an awesome book that I know Moxie has mentioned on this site before- How to Talk so Kids will Listen, How to Listen so Kids will Talk. Works well in adult relationships too!!

  55. To whomever asked if kindergarten teachers wipe behinds: no they do not…but your really intent on not doing it themselves kids will not (ever!) have a bowel movement at school. And it’s not that they refuse to have them outside the home. Heck, Target is fine. A gas station is fine. As long as mom is there to take care of the situation. And I’ve decided I’m just cool with it. It’s OK. It won’t be forever.Though, my almost-18-year-old brother still has his mom pick out his clothes. My husband told my step-mom that if she wants it to end, all she had to do was send him to school in a pink tutu one day and he’d magically be able to pick out clean jeans and a hoodie the next day.

  56. Oh, Paola, I think I need to install bidets in my house. My 7 year old consistently wipes her own bottom, but she doesn’t always do a good job!As so many others have mentioned, my 7 year old is supposed to dress herself, brush her own teeth, etc., but she needs constant reminding and I think would forget her backpack in the morning if I didn’t hand it to her on her way out the door.
    My younger daughter is a potty refusnik at 3.5, and I told her she won’t be able to go to summer activities if she doesn’t use the toilet (true), to which she responded, “that’s okay, I’ll stay here with you, because I loooove you, Mama.” So sweet, but I’m really tired of changing diapers.
    I’m trying to be zen about my kids and personal responsibility, working with the 7 year old to improve her responsibility level and just working to get the 3 year old out of diapers.

  57. Five year old. Kindergarden. Husband and I are discussing this exact topic these days. We stopped wiping his butt when he was four but he still ends up with dirty underwear a year later. He just FORGETS that he was on the toilet a second ago, gets up, put his pants on and walks out the door. If this happens at home, we say “did you wipe your butt? Did you flush? Did you wash your hands?”…at school, nobody does… all the other “getting ready for school / for bedtime” tasks that others have talked about have to be supervised and we need to remind him constantly about what it is that he is supposed to be doing. He just starts reading a book, finds a lost LEGO and starts making it into a spacecraft… We had the hypothesis that we just supervise him too much, so he relies on us telling him what to do? Any thoughts?

  58. This is a really interesting thread. I have a 4.5 year old, and a 6 year old.4.5 year old has been wiping his own bottom for at least 6 months, probably longer. 6 year old was refusing to do it himself for a very long time. I gave up on him, worked on his younger brother, then, when he wanted help, sent his younger brother to help him.
    He wipes his own bottom now. Although sometimes he still asks me to check, but that’s okay. (The 4 year old should ask me to check – sometimes he doesn’t do that great of a job!)
    Both kids get themselves dressed, usually they pick their own clothes (leads to the 4 year old wearing too short pants and shirts that don’t match that often, but that’s okay, I don’t make him change unless we are going somewhere special). They run their own bath, mostly wash themselves (need a bit of help with hair). Older boy is responsible for taking the laundry from the hamper upstairs to the laundry room downstairs. He’s supposed to do it 3x / week, but I usually have to remind him. THen he complains. I tell him if he doesn’t do it, i won’t wash his clothes.
    4 year old likes to help me cook, both boys help set the table sporadically. I expect them to be helpful when asked, and it really depends on how (tired/hungry) they are.

  59. @Cloud, Nice link between being a SAHM and project manager. ITA!This morning DS (2y10m) blew me away with a little bit of responsibility he took on himself – he put on his own jacket! I have no idea if this is a usual thing for most almost-3yo’s, but in general DS does not dress himself except to put on his boots and pull down his pants/pull-up to go to the potty.
    Anyhow, his jacket had fallen on the floor and he immediately goes over, sticks his hands in the sleeves and then does this crazy flip it over his head thing. At first I just thought he was fooling around, but then I realised this was how he learned to put his coat on at daycare. (Have I mentioned that I love his educator?)
    So, I put it on the floor again, lining side up, with the hood towards him (bottom hem away from him) and he did it again. But this time it worked because by the time he flipped it over his head, it was on. He was so pleased with himself. Now I just want to parade him around to get him to do his coat trick.

  60. @maman_du_petrus, this sounds very familiar to me (with regard to my first grader)…I am going to take the tack that it’s not you, it’s him and his personality.

  61. Great topic. Teaching responsibility, it’s a long process. It takes a full 21 years. The brain has much developing to do before parents see a 100% responsible child walking around. Yes, there are exceptions, some children are just naturally responsible and neat. Not mine. Taller was neater and more responsible than Tall. Taller claims it’s because he watched what Tall did! LOL!What I noticed about my kids was that they showed glimpses of being really responsible as they grew, but full implementation wasn’t activated until they were 100% responsible for their choices.
    I believe it’s best if parents release responsibility to kids when the parents are ready. Implementing responsibility means making all the consequences of a child’s choices, to remember or forget, their responsibility. And that can be a messing emotional business. I recommend you do it when you’re ready and your pace!
    We did what Susan suggested too with one addition. We made a laminated list that lived by the door to the car. They had to look at it, pictures were used when they were young, before getting into the car. The only thing I ever said was “Is your list complete before we leave?” It was at that moment that the “last minute morning scramble” would occur. I was okay with that, because I knew they were learning.
    There was no punishment. And they knew there was no way I was going to drive 20 minutes to school and then go back home to bring them something they forgot and be late for work.
    The other thing that was very clear from a young age was this.
    You may keep your room the way you like, and I get to choose whether or not I’m willing to go in there.
    I’ve told this story before, it’s a good one, so I’ll share again.
    Tall, my clever one, loved tiny, little, very painful Star Wars pieces. His room usually looked like a bomb exploded.
    One evening I’d had it and said, from the door to his room,
    M: “Good night love.”
    He was panic stricken and said,
    C: “Mom, no kiss or hug, why?”
    M: “Because my dear, I fear for my feet. You can chose not to clean up but these things really hurt when I step on them.”
    There was no crying after that, which I found strange. I figured oh well, he got it and that’s that. Five minutes later I hear,
    C: “Mom…I have something for you.”
    I went to his door and there was a pathway from the door to his bed, and he was sitting there with a smug smile on his face.
    C: “Ready for kisses!”
    I knew I’d been beat! LOL! I said,
    M: “Points for creativity, this time. However, from now on, I will no longer be going into a stinky, unclean room.”
    That worked till he was about 17. I won’t go there now…no need to freak you out!
    Happy Easter everyone!

  62. @jessica: When my 9 year old used to forget to flush, I would sing at the top of my lungs: “Comet, it makes your mouth turn greenComet, it tastes like gasoline
    Comet, it makes you vomit
    So get your comet, and vomit, today!!!!”
    Then I would have her flush and use the toilet bowl brush with some Comet Cleanser) because now the toilet was dirty.
    It really only took about 5-6 renditions of the song to break that habit.

  63. My kids are 5 and almost 3, so we’re just now getting into more independence and chores with the older one. I really like the kid-generated list idea, too. Actually, I think our whole family is on the verge of needing a chart for who is responsible for what! My focus these days has been with getting my 5 year old to do a better job of brushing her teeth independently (and getting the younger one to just open his mouth!) I found some creative tips and good info on this Mom’s Guide to caring for little teeth ( if you guys want to check it out.

  64. I love this thread. My daughter is 2 1/2 yo. She has been responsible for her dishes since 18 months – setting the table, taking her dishes to the counter, emptying the dishwasher, etc. We have a bottom cabinet that holds all of her dishes. There are also approved snacks and juice on the bottom shelf on the fridge. I am trying to teach her to be independent and self-reliant. Before breakfast, she must brush her teeth and get dressed. Before bed, we clean up the toys. How long it takes determines how many books she and daddy read together. I thrive on routines and organization so this was a must for me. We do everything as a family and she is not expected to do anything she doesn’t see mommy and daddy doing too. We started this early and it has been working for us. I really hope it continues to work 🙂

  65. @Susan, I am sorry, but it’s too young for 3.5 half year old to consistently want to help with tidying up toys. I used to just wave a bucket in front of mine and say, put a few things in. Giving a 3.5 year old a time out for not tidying toys? I don’t think that’s appropriate. I agree with the person who said that about 6 years of age is the turning point. Not only they learn what’s expected of them, but they have the dexterity and the ability to do it. Encourage what they are willing to do: help set up the table, push buttons on the washing machine and dispense detergent, stack toilet paper rolls in the bathrooms, line up toy cars neatly, match shoes and line them up (when they are haphazardly discarded by the door), find the missing pairs of the socks in the clean laundry basket (even if half the time is spent making hand/sock puppets out of them), feed the fish and the cat etc.

  66. Well I don’t know if I can help with that, but I do come from a Greek home where kids (both girls and boys) live with their parents until they get married (there are also financial reasons tied to this). I was raised by a mother who did everything for me until I left for my postgraduate studies (23 yrs old). I turned out fine, I am a mean cook (and food blogger)and keep the household pristine. I believe that the most important thing is to try and remind children how to do things themselves even if they don’t. at some point the lesson will sink in.

  67. Like @ Foodjunkie I grew up in a pristine home where everything was done for me. And I had plenty of time to observe and was shown how to do things and once in my own place I was easily able to manage.My DH grew up in a home where he did nothing but his single mother didn’t either. He adapted to putting dishes in the kitchen and laundry in the hamper but not much more.I think early examples do stick.
    With our 3 1/4 year old I’m doing what @lolismum said, as in she pushes buttons on the dishwasher, puts her shoes away, ” helps” to clean windows and wash dishes with lots of fun , puts bits of paper and fluff in the kitchen bin.
    She knows where things are and go in the household sense. I do believe that having a routine of tending the home helps and being consistent.
    She’s not great putting her toys away as she gets distracted doing it and I do think that’s just being a three year old.
    She’s not very independent dressing when mummy’s around. More so when I’m not and she’s with daddy or another adult.

  68. @WilhelminaI am glad to have bumped into you here at this post. We are moving to your neck of the woods in July and have a million questions regarding accomodation and schooling. If you have time (and more importantly don’t mind) could you e-mail me at the following address to give me some information. Address:
    paoladotpinkatvirgiliodotit. Thanx

  69. I’m really enjoying this convo! Having twin 3.75 yr boys definitely shows that different kids are, well, different. For instance, one has been muchly (day) potty trained for some time, but the other has been very sllllooooowwww on this. That whole idea of one twin being inspired by the other? Not so much in this house…Similarly, one likes putting on his own clothes when we parents aren’t rushed, the other not really ever. But both like putting on their own boots and shoes. Neither likes doing that flip-overhead-jacket trick, despite having seen it at Montessori-inspired daycare for months now. They each help cleaning up sometimes, one even asks to vacuum. They’re getting good at putting away playdough automatically. But because we parents aren’t completely in a routine yet, we’re having a hard time being consistent. I’m heartened to hear of those who had things done for them as kids and yet did great when moved out on their own!

  70. We’re talking about this very issue today at Parent Hacks, but about older kids being responsible for getting themselves up in the morning!This is an issue I struggle with as well, and tried to lay out in this post:
    At this point, my feeling is, no matter how old your kids are (ie. it’s never too early or too late), always think in terms of how you can help them help themselves. Move into the coach role and away from the service provider role. It takes effort, especially when we are already overwhelmed with the details.

  71. I was really surprised no one mentioned a timer? It works WONDERS for my almost 5 yr old! I set it for 10 mn increments usually and we play “Race the clock!” she can clean her room entirely except linen changes… and put away laundry too! She does much better then my older teens. 😀 It does help that I keep the clutter at a manageable level by letting her have a portion of the toys for a while then swapping them out every few months. She has recently acquired the ability to clean herself after potty visits. That age has varied with our five kids from 6 yrs old (the oldest and most DEpendant) to 3 yrs old. Girls catch on quicker in our house. O.o

  72. I’m not a parent, but I remember having tons of issues with my mom when she’d tell me to clean my room and my definition of ‘clean’ was not the same as hers. It happens to me even now, as an adult…after a certain amount of time, you just don’t see the piles. Maybe get the room all tidy, just the way you want it: floor completely cleared, jackets hung up, toys in their bins, dresser drawers closed, etc, and take a photograph of the room. Enlarge it and laminate it, and make a game of it. “How fast can you get your room to look like this?” And if they forget something, you can turn it into that old Highlights game, “How are these two pictures different?” It’ll save you the hassle of spelling out every action you want them to take, and it’d probably be easier for kids to do a visual comparison than try to remember everything you asked them to do.

  73. @Maeve, Funny that the boys aren’t into the coat thingy. Since I called it the ‘coat trick’ from the get go, L is very keen on doing the ‘coat trick’ every time. We almost have the opposite problem of the fact that he wants to do it again and again (naturally when we have the least amount of time). We’ve now extended the ‘coat trick’ to button up shirts. But yeah, each kid different and working at their own pace. Most definitely.

  74. I’m married to one of those Italians and I have been hacking at that umbilical cord made of steel for a long timennow. I am trying to do better by my son. I ask him to throw garbage away that he has caused. I ask him to take his dish to the sink when he is done with it. That is more than my mother-in-law requires of her sons. It is a work in progress, but at least if we start we have hope!

  75. After reading and commenting on this thread, we tried to make a “morning list” and an “evening list” for our kinder-gardener 5 year old son. He liked it immediately and we now only have to say “did you do your list?”. When he gets to the last item, he tells us and we can all get ready to leave (morning) or come to his room (read, cuddle, sing, put to bed). The change is …extreme! in a good way. We will see how it holds up, but really my life has changed for the better, as I really didn’t like the nagging version of me.

  76. I do understand what you’re saying, and it’s natural for responsible parents to think about their kids behavior. I have a kids too, I think they’re smarter than I am when I was their age.

  77. Agreed, Bob Lesson is a unique bloke. I don’t think I have ever seen him without a smile on his face!The one saying that he shared in my birthday card many years ago has stuck with me ever since……..”you don’t stop playing when you get old, you only get old when you stop playing!”
    I now write this in everyone else’s birthday card instead!

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  79. The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.WOWWWW!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M MISSING THIS YET AGAIN!!! AGGHGHGHGH…HAVE A GREAT EVENT EVERYONE!!

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