The Importance Of Fostering Independence In The Small Child

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I answered a question once on a forum where someone asked about fostering independence in their small child. I told some variation of the following story (probably with less colorful descriptions):

When my oldest son was about 17 months old, he decided to start putting his dishes in the sink after he finished eating, just like his mom did. "Mom" -- that would be me.

Well, my father essentially did nothing he deemed "women's work" and my husband was also terrible about not picking up after himself. So since my small child was male and lots of males in the immediate family behaved an awful lot like cavemen, I in no way wished to discourage this behavior. I was concerned that any discouragement would cause him to conclude that males
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The problem is this denies them the chance to exercise their brain. It also teaches them that initiative is a bad thing, and they should only do as they are told. The result is that many children arrive at the age of 18 having had precious little opportunity to practice decision-making or exercising their own initiative.

I had my eye on the long game. This small child's body was changing rapidly. One of the metrics that was changing most rapidly was his height.

But even after his body changed and he grew taller, he would have the same mind and he would remember what he had been taught when he was smaller. It is similar to the principle that you shouldn't let a puppy jump on the couch if you don't want the dog jumping on the couch after they are full grown. It may be cute when they are a small puppy, but a large dog that weighs 100+ pounds jumping up on your lap can actually hurt you. It isn't simply that it stops being cute. It becomes downright dangerous.

Forcing kids to engage in "responsible adult behaviors" like putting away their dishes, but doing it by making them your little push-button automaton is totally the wrong answer. Get out of their way. Let them explore and play, decide and do as they see fit.

I am quite fond of the quote "That government is best which governs least." I think it applies equally to parenting. I mostly interceded enough to stop them from hurting
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