Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Help Me, Help You.

I’m struggling a bit to teach my children to pack for themselves. I want them to learn how to be self-reliant, but I also want to make sure they have everything they need for the day. If I don’t triple check every detail, they’re likely to be fully prepared for snack time but missing important papers or sports equipment. What’s the right thing to do?

Your desire to raise self-reliant children is fantastic. But there’s no doubt that passing the baton can be tough. The first question has to be: how old are your children? A good general rule of thumb is, if they’re old enough to read, they’re old enough to pack their own bags. Assuming your little ones are old enough, the most effective thing to do is give them some time frame to take complete responsibility for getting themselves ready, ask questions to help prompt them if you think they aren’t paying attention to something crucial, and most importantly, when things aren’t crucial (e.g. do they have the right uniform packed), letting them fail. Nothing teaches quite like experience. As you let go of the reigns a bit, here are some more ideas to guide you.


Planning Starts the Night Before. Mornings are not the right time to teach your children how to pack themselves. You’re rushed, and they’re often bleary-eyed and grumpy. The ideal time to sit down with them, explain what you are trying to accomplish, and get them to start preparing for the next day is after homework but before TV time. That way you have time to ask them questions and offer un-stressed help in the initial stages. This is a process that will take time and spending time in the evenings helping them learn how to become responsible for themselves is time well spent.


Explain as You Go. You need to develop a checklist with them and then go through the items. Don’t criticize or watch over the task being done. Accept that the task will not be done exactly the way you would do it but recognize that as long as it is accomplished and done on time, that it is okay. In the beginning, be prepared to patiently ask and answer a lot of questions! Why do emergency numbers need to be in the backpacks? Because you might need to call someone. Why does lunch have to be prepared? So that mom knows they are eating healthy and, besides, too much sugar will make them feel bad, Why do you keep asking about permission slips or projects that need to go with them? Because it’s important they do not miss out on something the rest of the class is doing. This is just a primer but you get the idea.


Provide Feedback. Once the task has been completed, give constructive feedback to the person. As a guideline, tell your son or daughter five great things about the job for every one criticism. If after some time you notice they are consistently sloppy or forgetful, be patient but firm and make sure there are consequences for actions.

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