Imagine the following scenario:
You’ve been working all day. You come home, start dinner, and figure out what housework you have to tackle before you can call your day done. As you fill the sink to wash some dishes, your child wants to help. She brings her stool to the sink and starts splashing around. Before you get the previous day’s dishes all put away, you notice that your sink is being filled with dishes from the drainer. As you step in to save what’s left of the clean and dry dishes, you step in a puddle of water. What do you do?
There was a time when I got upset. The work I had done the day before was being undone, there were new messes to clean up, and it was going to be impossible to clean the dishes with her under-foot. Then I remembered how much it ticked me off as a child to be told I was too small, too young, etc, to help.
The other day, I decided that the problem wasn’t the two year old who wanted to help, it was mom’s attitude. I put down a couple of towels to sop up the puddles. Her stool was moved to a new home in front of the rinse sink. I threw out the need to get dishes done in a certain order, have them lined up in the drainer the way I always do, and turned off the timer that tells me when I’ve spent 15 minutes cleaning so I can move on to something else.
The result? A dish drainer that only held half of the dishes I could have put in there, two wet towels on the floor, and a soaked counter under the drainer because the two year old doesn’t comprehend dumping the water over the sink. But the best thing was the sense of accomplishment I gave her. She felt like she was contributing to the family, she helped mom with the dishes.
I think that parents tend to focus too much on their own perceptions of how things need to be done and what their children can or can not do. This is true whether the child is 2 or 20. Slowly but surely, those perceptions are being kicked out of my head. I think our family will be more successful for it.
The next time your child wants to help with something you normally wouldn’t let them help with, give in. Figure out what you can do to make the task more child friendly. Don’t worry if you have to re-do something. The look on your child’s face will be worth it!