1- Starting at 3 I encouraged my oldest child to be the one to identify and approach store staff to ask questions for any purchase related to him. At six with a little bit of help he will identify who works in a store, approach them, identify whether they are helping someone else already, get their attention by saying “excuse me”, and tell them in his own words what he is looking for. Sometimes he needs a little bit of help to format his request properly, often he is able to handle the entire exchange beautifully. This means that if he ever becomes separated from us he will be able to identify who works in a store and ask for help. It also means that at six he has mastered a skill that I struggled with as an adult. In a pet store looking to see if they have a specific addition to his aquarium? He’ll find the worker, get the worker’s attention, ask about the specific addition, answer questions about his aquarium.. If he doesn’t know the answers he’ll turn to me and ask me and then tell the worker the answers. His adaptability is remarkable. No he’s not the child that is throwing a fit because he can’t get the salt water fish for his fresh water aquarium. He’s the child that is identifying a fish within the parameters given, and then making the choice to wait another two weeks before getting the new fish because the petstore worker has told him that he should wait before adding another fish to his setup. He is also noticing the price of the fish and comparing it to the prices of other fish, and looking at the size of the aquarium that the fish will need to make sure that it would be okay in his aquarium.
2- After dealing with two noise sensitive children that were terrified of the vacuum and the coffee grinder.. With my daughter instead of trying to put her down somewhere away from the noise.. I kept her close. I wore her in a wrap, made eye contact with her, smiled, made a fake version of the sound about to happen, and then turned on the vacuum/coffee grinder/loud noisy thing while giggling. Now at ten months she finds the sound that the coffee grinder makes to be FUNNY. She also is amused by sudden loud sounds and will startle and then start laughing.
3- When my middle child started having an age appropriate fear of ghosts, we started reading childrens Halloween/spooky books. Now he thinks ghosts are awesome, and will talk to imaginary ghosts and spiders and robots. Trying to argue with a child about “it’s imaginary!” doesn’t work too well. I had some success with my oldest by telling him about imaginary and telling him that he can imagine a super sword to get the imaginary ghost. But making those “scary” things into fun playmates seems to be much more effective.
4- Involving my kids in my chores. Yes, it makes things take a lot longer at first. But my oldest child knew how to do his own laundry at 4. I still do it most of the time because he has a pretty packed schedule and needs his downtime, but when he’s feeling goal oriented he’ll declare he wants to do his laundry to earn “Izzamoolians” (a fake currency we created that has an exchange rate of 2 Izzamoolians to one dollar). I have to measure the detergent to avoid being drowned in suds but he’ll load, set the settings, move the laundry to the drier, and put it all away.
5- Which brings me to the closet. Child-height closet. All shirts hang, all pants are folded in drawers, and all underwear and socks are in a shoe organizer on the door. My six year old has access to all of his clothes and knows how to get it out to get dressed in the morning when he wakes up, and how to put it away.
6- Making cleanup part of potty learning. My two and a half year old knows that when he uses the potty we pour it out super careful into the middle of the toilet, then we help any escaped pee or poo get into the toilet with some toilet paper so that it won’t be lonely and left behind. Then we flush and wave bye bye. He will do all of this unprompted with supervision to make sure he doesn’t flush an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet.
7- Giving my kids change to play with and allowing my oldest to spend it in stores. The other day I told him he could have $2 to spend in a store. He counted some change that I gave him and found that he had $1.80 in two quarters and 13 dimes. I told him to go get two more dimes. He returned with two quarters and told me that instead of getting three more dimes he was going to use the two quarters. Then he took away three dimes to put back. When we go to the store he has his budget and will look for items that he can buy and try to figure out what he can buy. (We bring extra for the tax currently.) Often the cashiers will eat it up and will ask him if he can figure out what his change will be. My two and a half year old likes to count the pieces of money and talk about the sizes and colors and identify the numbers on the money. (Yes, he’s under three. No he doesn’t put it in his mouth.)
8- Variety plates of food. I’ve discovered that my kids aren’t “fussy” eaters. My kids have certain preferences and that when they’re simply offered things they will pick and choose and sample and make choices based on their needs. Then I can finish whatever they don’t finish. It eliminates battles and I learn interesting things. Like that my six year old likes bread with cream cheese that is sprinkled with dried basil. And that I like bread with cream cheese that is sprinkled with dried basil. There’s no pressure. My oldest will ask “what does that taste like?” and I’ll tell him what it tastes like so that he’s prepared so that instead of thinking that a mango will taste like sweet potato he’ll know that it tastes sort of like peach and pineapple together, with the feeling of a peach. They know that they’re allowed to spit out anything that they don’t want and my 2.5 year old will come over, take my hand and spit out the unwanted food. My six year old will tap me and point at a bowl or a napkin and I’ll let him spit it out there. They don’t spit food on the table or floor, and they don’t reject new foods out of the fear that they’ll “have” to eat them.
9- Letting my children own their mistakes. Something breaks or spills? I come over, make a statement. “Oh. Jeez. What a mess. Okay.. Let’s think.. What do we need to do right now?” I see if they come up with an answer. Apologies and coming up with a plan for how to avoid the mistake the next time are starting to be a part of the cleaning up of the mess. I involve them in MY mistakes. If I drop a plastic cup of water and it spills I see what solutions they come up with, and I apologize for spilling their water. I’m seeing the payoff in that my oldest is becoming a bit less resistant to apologies. (Although he still becomes wayyyyy resistant to apologies whenever he’s been forced to apologize in another environment.)
10- Encouraging my oldest to come up with his own ways to express gratitude instead of saying “thank you”. He struggles with words that he has been pushed to say too often. So instead we’re working on how he can describe how he feels after someone gives him something instead. “I was SO happy when you got me this because I love it like birthday cake!” actually IS a much better thank you than “thank you.”
What parenting choices have you made that have paid off? Were they things that came to you at the spur of the moment, or were they things that you always planned on doing?