Presence & Purpose


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How to Raise a Capable Child

Letting Go Of Control

It’s often easier and faster to do things for our kids, like picking out clothes, getting them dressed, making lunch, cleaning up.  But, one of the best things you can do is give them age appropriate independence! Our children are often more capable than we realize, and from the time they are young, they crave this.  Be intentional about letting them do things for themselves and teach them how to do those things. Encourage their efforts and not the outcome. It will be more work in the beginning, but will pay off in the long run.  They will build confidence and skills for life! Start with small steps, when you’re not in a rush to get somewhere and watch them beam with pride.

Step by Step

Don’t expect them to know how to do it without showing them first! When you say, “Clean your room,” what exactly does that mean?  Positive Discipline recommends following these steps:

First, explain what you’re doing while your child watched.  

Then do the task together.

When your child is ready, have them do it themselves while you watch.

Finally, when your child is ready, have them do it independently!

Let’s take picking up toys/cleaning rooms as an example.  When my kids play in their rooms alone or with friends, it can often look like a disaster zone afterward.  My daughter would get so overwhelmed when it was time to clean up that she would lie on the floor whining, fake crying, and saying she needed me to do it for her!  I taught her to break it down by sections or small taks...Lego’s first, then dolls, then the doll house, etc. We also made an agreement that her room and toys would be cleaned up daily which helps make it feel less overwhelming.  

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Age appropriate tasks

2-3 years old:

  • Help pick up toys

  • Help clear table

  • Throw diapers in trash

  • Put dirty clothes in hamper

  • Help sweep with small broom

  • Help fold towels

  • Help put socks and other laundry in drawers

4-6 years old:

  • All previous tasks

  • Feed pets

  • Water plants

  • Put silverware away

  • Match socks

  • Help put groceries away

  • Empty bathroom trash cans

  • Set table

7-10 years old:

  • All previous tasks

  • Fold laundry

  • Vacuum

  • Take out trash

  • Help make meals

  • Help garden

  • Wipe down table after meals

  • Load dishwasher

  • Get mail

11 years +

  • All previous tasks

  • Cook simple meals, pack lunches

  • Wash own laundry

  • Help with younger siblings

  • Help clean bathroom

  • Mop floor

These tasks are a simply a guideline.  Your child may show they are ready for these responsibilities sooner or later than these age ranges, so follow their lead!  Also, keep in mind that it can be overwhelming to have your child to do every single chore, every single day so take it in baby steps! Start with one and add another once they’re ready.

Source: Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way, by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott


Matt Hendon