A Cooperative Child

Putting Away Dishes

My daughter is 17 months and in the stage of helping out. She is now wiping her mouth, the table and the floor. She likes to grab a broom and sweep. One more thing she likes to do is put away dishes. I haven’t gotten together the Clothing Station the way I wanted, but she does help with laundry sometimes and will throw away trash. She likes to feed the dogs or help make dinner. All in all, she enjoys doing what we do, including chores around the house.

This strikes me because she is so young. I understand that children all develop at their own mysterious rates within a fairly large developmental range. Still, I continue to feel that the parenting style I was exposed to in life and through the media, the parenting that remains common in some circles, seems schizophrenic when it comes to raising independent children. On the one hand, infants should self-soothe and get to sleep on their own; on the other hand, it is assumed that children are unable to communicate their needs and desires around food and elimination until they are much older. The reality is that children can be slow (literally, slow processors) and make messes when learning. It can take time for them to learn things, and, just like adults, they mostly learn best by doing.

Sweeping Up

With my daughter, I constantly find myself fighting the urge to do for her what she is learning to do for herself. I am consistently amazed at how easy it can be to support a cooperative and active participation in creating our family. It really seems like it’s just about letting her do as much as she can. She usually surprises me in what she is capable of doing. I just need to take the focus from me, slow things down and allow her time and space to live with me, making a family happen from moment to moment. Yes, sometimes it is frustrating, but the times that I have let her do instead of doing for her have been some of my favorite motherhood moments so far. I look forward to more and more as time goes on.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Love this post Sheila. I agree with you.


  2. I like to think that this is the beginning of a life-long “stage.” The message to a child that they are an important and valued member of the family does wonders. The other day I made up these words to a song I sang as everyone helped clean up around the house, “Aumar is a PART of the family, so he’s gonna do his PART!” I sang everyone’s name as they decided what they could do to help our home feel less cluttered.


  3. Posted by Lata Murti on April 3, 2011 at 1:35 am

    We try to do the same with Ivy: we’ve finally learned that when we want her to do something, it’s best to phrase it as, “Will Ivy help us?” And she responds well…and now asks to help us all the time. This forces us to find ways for her to get involved in whatever we’re doing at the moment.


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