Help Me Help Y’allPosted: June 25, 2013
Many times when I’m with the kiddos, my primary concern is caring for them, doing things for them, keeping them distracted and happy. In my frantic frenzy to meet all of their needs, I can sometimes overstep and do too much for them. Most times it’s unintentional, but at times it is deliberate, as I know that I can clear the table/ pick up the living room/ or pick out the day’s outfit much more quickly and efficiently than the kiddos can. However, this doesn’t do the kiddos, their folks, or myself any favors in the long run. The old adage, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime,” holds true for kiddos as well. It is monumentally important for caregivers to pass on knowledge in the form of responsibility to young ones.
I start small with chores around the house, teaching them by Spoonful of Sugar example (just like my mama taught me). I also let them make mistakes. While Doc now loves to get his own water from the fridge, he more often than not spills it, and if there is ice involved—mess guaranteed. But it is important that he does things for himself, and he’ll learn to do it spill-free eventually. Outside of the home, I find the gas station and car wash are excellent venues to instill some life skills in my charges.
At the gas station, I always ask “Who wants to be my little assistant today?” The volunteer rate is always 100%, and so I have them go inside the station with me. After being briefed by me and handed currency, they tell the attendant how many dollars worth of gas we need and on which number of pump. (“Please” and “Thank you” book ends on the request of course!) I find that assigning them with this task helps them with interpersonal skills by encouraging manners and being comfortable speaking with adults. Next they help me press proper buttons, and after I place nozzle firmly in gas tank, pull “trigger”(It’s cliché but true, little boys will turn any object into a weapon.), lock it, and fill ‘er up! While the car is being fueled, I let them squeegee my car wherever they see fit, resigning myself to the fact that this usually leaves my car a bit messier than when we arrived, but hey, “E” for effort!
When I take kiddos to the car wash there are lessons mathematical, monetary, and merry! Firstly, they are in charge of determining how many quarters are needed for the $1.25 it costs to self wash(they really enjoy counting out the change), then they get to pop the coins into the machine(taking turns if more than a single kiddo), before turning the dial to the appropriate action(wash, soap, foam brush, rinse). From here on participation really depends on age and physical capability. Ages 6 and up can usually handle the sprayer/brush, and they love helping. In the hands of a responsibility-drunk kiddo, the sprayer is held like a flame-thrower of joy. We keep an eye on the timer countdown, and the kiddos are responsible for adding more coinage if needed. I usually let them cleanse my car for a good while, but then take the reins on the rest of the task. While I finish rinsing, I have the kiddos hop back in the car and, as they press their faces against the window, I spray it sending them into excited screams and peals of laughter as they scramble to the next window in my line of fire.
I have many fond memories of teaching the kiddos new skills, and hope my lessons will serve them well in their time away from me. Teaching them to take on responsibilities, whether pertaining to self-reliance or routine tasks, I believe will increase their sense of self-confidence and accountability in the present and the future. I am happy to pass on life skills from the everyday to the entertaining. After all, Supernannies help those who help themselves!