Last night I was writing to my mother in law, who is coming to visit soon.
I wrote, “You are visiting at a great time. James now gives hugs and kisses.He also pulls hair, punches, and kicks… you know, he’s a boy.”
Then I paused. He’s a boy. And boys will be boys, right? If he was a girl, would I accept his playful punches, or correct them? Am I teaching my son that I will tolerate these things?
He is five months old. He has a sweet little loving heart and he sometimes doesn’t know his own strength. He definitely doesn’t yet understand that with strength, comes responsibility.
Tonight we went to a restaurant, and my strong, curious, little boy pulled our waitresses hair, broke a ceramic spoon, and then broke a plate. It was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my mom life to date.
And yet, it is on me. I let him too near the table, twice. I haven’t taught him that he can’t do these things. I have thought to myself “he’s just a baby” or “he’s such a boy” and made excuses instead of teaching him not to hit or grab.
And, he is just a baby, but better for me to learn this now and begin to teach him, than start when it’s too late. My corrections may go over his sweet little head for a bit, but eventually they’ll stick.
My son may be a boy, and act like one… but I will not excuse myself from raising him well from the time he is young . I will up my parenting game and teach him to know his strength and to use it responsibly.
I was happily going about our day and I realized, my kid helps me a lot. Sure, it sometimes makes the work harder, but much of my housekeeping is done with toddler in tow. Kids can clean, and kids SHOULD clean, since it helps the family and they will one day have to do it for themselves.
So here’s my list of seven ways that my toddler helps me clean up around the house:
1. Fetching something
My two year old can fetch diapers for her brother, her shoes, my water bottle if I’m stuck on the couch nursing… you get the gist of it.
2. helping unload the dishwasher
I take the knives and sharp things out first, but I do let her (carefully) help even with some glass items. If she has a stool to stand on, she can sort the silverware by herself.
3. wiping up a spill
Lots of spills around here. I usually come help or make sure that she’s done a good job. Miri knows where the paper towels and napkins are, and can usually get one herself and clean up.
4. straightening up
Probably our least favorite chore, but my toddler can definitely help straighten her toys and other household items. Especially if I tell her where to put them, and she gets to hold things that don’t belong to her. She likes fetching and putting away things that belong to others more than she likes to clean her own stuff, and I get it, other people’s stuff is cooler and more exciting.
5. throwing something in the trash or recycling
Goes along well with straightening up. We have full sized trash and recycling cans, but she’s mastered the art of stepping on the little lid flipper. I do still tell her which objects need to go in the trash can, and which need to be recycled.
6. assist in sibling care
I know people have lots of opinions about whether big sister or big brother should be allowed to help care for their younger siblings. My short answer is: yes, definitely, it’s great practice and we work and play as a family. It is hard not to squelch this little desire to help, but I’ve read about a million articles saying you shouldn’t, so I let my daughter do as much as she can.
This looks like assisting with onesie snaps or zippers, doing the velcro part of the diaper change, helping put baby’s socks on or arm through the arm hole. Sometimes I let her bounce the bouncy chair (with supervision, so she doesn’t bounce her brother across the room). Speaking of which, we love this bouncy seat. (Amazon Affiliate Link*)
7. help make a bed
Not that we make our beds every day at this stage of life, but when we do, my little one can help. She can take the pillows off and put them back on, and pull on or off one corner of the blanket. This actually IS helpful, and means I don’t have to do all the work on both sides, just go over it quickly when she’s done.
So that’s it! How do your little ones help around the house? This post is linked up with Kelly over at 7 Quick Takes.
*as part of the Amazon Affiliates program, if you buy something after going through my link, I get a small commission. All thoughts, opinions, etc. are honest and my own of course 🙂
I have a love / hate relationship with attachment parenting. I love fostering closeness with my children, I love being gentle with them. I love when my kids and I successfully communicate. I enjoy taking care of my little ones in a loving way.
What I don’t love is how challenging discipline can be. The stereotype is that people who choose gentle parenting DON’T discipline their kids, and this accusation is not totally unfounded. True attachment / gentle parenting is not permissive parenting, and it is not avoiding setting boundaries, but in practice… setting and enforcing boundaries gently can be a huge challenge.
A question that comes up a lot in unschooling / freedom minded circles is: Would you let your child cut their own hair? What about washing or brushing it? If it is their body, doesn’t that mean that it is their choice? What if they don’t want their hair cut? Well I won’t say our family tends towards absolute and total freedom for children, or that my version of homeschooling is all unschooling (although it does include plenty of that)… but we do try to respect our children, respect the ideas that bodies and property belong to their owners, and make peaceful choices.
For a long time I wanted to let Miriam’s hair grow until she asked me to cut it. I thought, well, there’s a possiblity that she’ll never want to cut it and that should be her choice, not one that I make for her. I let it grow to about this length before I decided that wasn’t working for us:
Maybe you can see why, eh? Bangs in the face, in her eyes, alllll the time. I was a kid her age once, I had bangs, they grew long. I remember just how well you can see out of long bangs. That is, not well at all. Miriam absolutely refused to keep hair clips in, or let me do side pony tails, or anything other than a quick brush.