Helping Children Help Themselves

Helping Children Help Themselves

When your child spills something, drops something, or creates a mess, pause before getting upset. Then, calmly ask your child what she was trying to do. You might be surprised at her answers, and you might learn things about your child and her thinking that you would never have known if you had gotten upset. Sometimes, your child really is just trying to help! Once you know what she was trying to accomplish, you can talk calmly about ways that it might work better next time. It will create a sense of great well being and self-esteem in your kids.

Here are some tips for helping children help themselves:

It is easy enough to find out what a child should be able to do at each age, but what do you do if the skills don’t come? When a child is struggling with a task, often a parent’s first instinct is to do it for him. It is only natural to want to do these things for your child, but we all know that helping a child help himself is wiser in the long run. So, here are some strategies for doing just that.

First, look at the task. If your child is having difficulty mastering any self-care skill, take a minute to break down the task. The best way to do this it to perform the task yourself, slowly, labeling the steps involved. Give the right help, at the right time. After analyzing the task, notice which part of the process is causing problems for your child. Help him with just that step and nothing more. As he begins to master the step, give less and less help with it.

¦ Try backward chaining for tricky tasks. A new skill that involves a lot of coordination, like buttoning, can be overwhelming to some children. If they try to tackle the whole task at once, they may fail and give up. Sometimes, it is helpful to have your child begin by performing only the last step. When buttoning, for example, you might do almost the entire task, then let your child pinch the button and give it the final tug that fastens it. When she is able to do that, go backwards in the chain of steps, so that she is performing the last two steps. By having her begin by doing the final steps, rather than the first, she gets to finish the task and feel the pride of achievement as you say, “Look! You did it!”

¦ Use play to work on skill-building. If your child is struggling with some aspect of self-care, ask yourself what ability he needs to perform the difficult tasks. Does he need greater strength, more dexterity or improved sequencing skills? Rest assured, whatever ability is lacking, there is a playful, engaging way to develop it.

¦ Make things easier for a while. As your child works on building the skills to allow her to perform self-care tasks, you can help her be as independent as possible by adapting materials or routines so that she has some opportunities to do things for herself. Baggy t-shirts, pants with elastic waists, and Velcro shoes may not be too fashionable for adults, but they are just fine for a 5-year-old. Consider a poncho for a little girl who has trouble putting on a coat. How about a pull-over fleece for the boy who cannot use a zipper? Think about ways to make a healthy meal from foods that can be finger-fed. Your small efforts mean a lot when they help your child feel successful and competent.

¦ Know when to ask for help. If your child is experiencing lags in self-care skills that are having a negative impact on his daily life and self-esteem, it may be wise to get some help.


  • Clinic 1
    Dr. Hemendra Gupta's Child Care Center
    B-1/560, Shiva Residency, Chitrakoot, Near Akshardham Chouraha, Jaipur-302021
    +91-9414278775
    0141-4800483
  • dr_hems1@rediffmail.com
  • Clinic 2
    Gupta Child & Dental Clinic
    472, Shanti Nagar, Opp. Durgapura Rly. Station Near Rukmani Birla high school, Jaipur-302018
    +91-9414260695
    0141-2762167

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