One day, when Ameera was 2 years old, I went to pick her up from school. When she saw me the first thing she did was drop whatever it was she was working on and run to me, only to be stopped short by her teacher, "Excuse me Ameera," she said. "Could you please clean up before you leave?" I looked at her oddly for a moment, and then to my astonishment, Ameera turned around went back to her table put all the pieces of the puzzle she had been working on back in its box and placed the box back in the shelf and proceeded to come back to me so I could put her coat on and we could leave. I was a little more than dumbfounded by this! I could'nt believe that she actually knew how to clean up after herself, meanwhile at home I was killing myself everyday trying to run around cleaning up all the messes she would make throughout the house.
As time went on and she got older, things didnt really change much. I mean ocassionally I would ask her to clean up and reluctantly she would do a mediocre job at putting her things away and I would reluctantly go and fix things so they were in the proper order. She would also give me a hard time eating, as most children do, so day in and day out I would sit her down and spoon feed her while she occupied herself with something else, or if she wasnt occupied it would just be a fight until she finished all her food. If I had let her eat byherself she wouldnt eat. To top this all off, I consistently dressed her in the mornings, undressed her for nap times, dressed her when she awoke, undressed her bed and then dressed her in her PJs to go to bed. I would brush her hair, her teeth, wipe her in the bathroom and then everything would start all over again day in and day out, and i never thought twice about these things.
I then began reading a book called How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin
There are so many useful techniques for teaching your child how to be independant. As soon as I started reading through it I began applying some of the various techniques in my home. One main piece of advice in this book is to look at your home through the eyes of your child. Once you do this you realize that everything in a home is made for adults and can be extremely frsutrating for a child. For example, all of Ameeras clothes were in a dresser that was too high for her to reach, clothes hung in her closet were too high, the bathroom sink was not accessible without a step stool, her shoes in a hanging shoe organizer also high up, along with her coat and other items. The first changes I made were to her bedroom, where I moved all of her clothes down to the bottom drawers and showed where each article of clothing could be found. Next I arranged a higher step stool in the bathroom where she would have access to her toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and towel. I put sticky hooks low in the halls for her coat, and a step stool in the kitchen for her. I then proceeded to make her do things by herself that I had previously been doing for her.
At night time, she would have to dress herself in her pjs, undress her self and put all her clothes in the hamper. She would have to go to the bathroom and brush her teeth, rinse, wash her face, go to the bathroom and get in bed. In the mornings she would also dress herself and put on her coat and shoes when it was time to leave. During dinner she helps set the table and remove dishes and place them in the sink or on the counter. I also reorganized her play room so that certain toys were in certain bins and then showed her where these toys were so they could be properly replaced.
In the beginning this was all very difficult for her, she would cry in fustration and say, "I cant do it!" However, it wasnt that she couldnt do it, it was that she didnt want to do it. Why bother when someone else was doing everything for her day in and day out. I remember at a certain point when ameera was probably 2 or 2.5, she would want to do everything herself, and it would take forever, and because of my own impatience I would rush her along or say, "Let me do it!" Without ever praising her attempts or encouraging her to continue.....as a result she gave up trying to do things for herself. Withing one week of this transition I was seeing amazing results, not only in her independance but in her confidence. She has become proud of herself and eager to please me by continuing in doing things on her own. With a little practice, encouragement and praise, Ameera has changed in so many ways. I encourage you to read the book or check it out from your local library. It has reduced my stress of having to do everything for both my children, instead I now have a helper and she is so excited about this new role.