5 Top Strategies For Teaching Preschoolers Independence

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Are you tired of picking up after the kids after they are done playing? Do you want to scream when you have to wipe up yet another spill? Do you find yourself wishing time away by saying, “If only they were older, they could do it themselves!”?

If your answer is yes to all of the above, it is time to instill a sense of independence in your child. Children as young as two already like to “help” and do things on their own. When they are of preschooler age, it is a great time to start teaching them to help you around the house, and even with younger siblings.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa (best known as Dr. G), mother of four boys, practicing physician, and parenting expert whose book, Get The Behavior You Want … Without Being The Parent You Hate!, is a comprehensive roadmap of quick, concrete strategies to help parents use everyday opportunities to create respectful, responsible, and resilient children between the ages of 18 months and 12 years without screaming or nagging. She offers 5 of her top strategies for teaching preschoolers independence.

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toddler cleaning
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Use their desire to “help” and turn it into actual helping. Most kids this age imitate grown-up behaviors, so have them do that with tasks they can do well (or at least can't mess up too much) like sponging the table after meals.

Mother and daughter cleaning in the kitchen
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Make a mess? Clean it up! Preschoolers spill and drop a lot of things. Teach independence through resilience by encouraging them to look for ways to fix the “oops.” Dr. G recommends wet paper towels as the kiddos' best friend.

little girl doing dishes
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Don't go back and fix the job. Asking a child to accomplish something then redoing it will undermine that confidence you're building. If you are assigning a task to a child that she can't do to your satisfaction, then work together. You use the broom, he holds the dustpan.

{ MORE: Help Your Preschooler Learn About Symmetry with This Art Project! }

little girl high heels
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Replace games for play with games for work. Do you have a matching game for your preschooler? Put that box away and head for the shoe pile. It's the same game, and some good will come out of it for the whole family when she sorts the shoes by owner and pairs.

Toilet Paper
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Give him a job that no one else does. In Dr. G's family, they asked their 3-year-old to be the “Toilet Paper Police.” She said, “He checks the bathrooms to see if the toilet paper is running low, and if so, he grabs another roll. If someone runs out, they yell for him, and he goes to help. This kind of assignment helps a preschooler learn how important they are to the smooth running of the household, and it gives them a chance to run to the bathroom making siren noises!”

{ MORE: 8 Steps to Loving Your Child Through Purposeful Discipline }

How old was your child when they started to learn to do things independently?

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5 Top Strategies For Teaching Preschoolers Independence

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, she traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison is a former blogger (Writing, Wishing), and her writing has been featured on Mamalode,On Parenting at The Washington Post,The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, andDrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists ... More

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