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Katy England Katy England
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Helping them help

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Kids are helpful, but they don't typically help with anything. They want to they're just bad at it. Really bad at it. But they were also bad at walking at one point, and that got better (or worse, depending on how many head injuries you have to field annually).

Helping the kids help can be daunting. Because as adults, we are so much better at things than they are. So it's faster and in some cases safer to do it yourself. But it isn't helpful. It isn't helpful to you, it isn't helpful to them and it isn't helpful to society as a whole.

Of course, that still leaves you with the problem that three 3-year-olds helping is insane. So I have to help myself in order to let them help. Here are some things that have beenslowlyworking for me. So very slowly.

*Put it where they can reach it. Want them to set the table? Put their cups and bowls where they can access them. We picked a low cabinet with no child lock (fancy that). At first it's a huge pain, because all new things are exciting. They would take all the bowls our and strew them around the kitchen floor. But just the other day I was getting 'their responsibilities' and one of the girls goes: 'Milk!' and runs into the kitchen, fetches three cups and puts them on the dining room table. Without being asked. I almost fainted.

*Keep it simple. Put the plastic bowl on the counter. Put the sandwich crust in the trash. Put the shirts in this drawer and the pants in this drawer. Praise them when they do it right and correct them when they do it wrong (or just see what you find in the drawer the next time it's a surprise!).

* They are helping you, not doing it alone. Do it with them. Show them how it's done so they get the gist of it. When you want someone to scrape a plate, hold the plate and their little hand with the fork and scrape it with them. It helps them learn and keeps the plate out of the trash.

* Remember, you spill things too! I dropped a glass just this morning and it was but for the grace of God that I didn't have to pick up glass splinters while going solo with the littles.

* Kids will cry over spilled milk, and it's up to you to tell them not to. I had to invent the 'who can clean it up fastest?' game to keep one of my kids from having a full-blown sobfest over a puddle of milk. Cleaning up another lake of milk isn't on anyone's 'awesome' list, but you can take a breath and tell him, 'It's cool, watch how easy it is to clean up.'

All of the above advice comes frommonthsof trial and error and reminding myself thatIwas the adult in the situation. And they need to build up habits over time just like walking took time.

But the payoff will be amazing.

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