Oftentimes, I live in a hellish world of lunacy where children just less than four make the rules. And this seems totally reasonable. Why? Well, they’re the only people I see all day, so suddenly playing markers in nothing but underwear and throwing cereal on the floor when we’re pissed seem like reasonable things to do.
Okay, those are exaggerations, but the point is, don’t be fooled. They’re wrong. Your kids are wrong. They simply don’t know what they’re talking about, and they don’t know what’s good for them. It’s true.
Here’s a short list of things your neurotypical child should be able to do by the time she’s ready to turn four.
1) Use the bathroom by herself.
This is the main driving point behind this post. One day last week, I was at my rope’s end. I had been sitting in the bathroom, with my perfectly capable children, reading them stories or making up stories to tell them while they were on the potty. It started when one of them had a bit of constipation and I was attempting to distract her while she tried to go. But what started out as one ten-minute story became dozens of stories “until I’m done, until I’ve gone poopoo.” Two and a half hours, that day, Dulce made me sit with her. I had lost my mind.
Then I realized I could get up. There was nothing stopping me from getting up. So I did.
And I went right to facebook to ask if I was being immeasurably cruel by no longer sitting with my kids in the bathroom. The resounding comment cascade? “What are you, nuts?”
Apparently no one in the history of the world does this for their children. Except me. Because my kids told me that sitting in the bathroom was appropriate and that everyone did it. And I believed them.
Don’t believe them.
2) Dress herself.
That night I had a major break down / break through. I also stopped dressing them. Because they are freaking almost four years old and they know how to dress themselves. They just don’t. And they tell me that I’m supposed to do it. And I believed them.
My girls are more than three feet tall. Have you ever seen a child almost as long as a meter stick stretch out on the floor so you can put her overnight diaper pullup on? Like she’s an infant?
It looks ridiculous.
So, I said, no more. You put that on yourself, and your nightie, too. And you take your own clothes off. And do it standing up. For all the commotion in this house, you’d have thought I declared World War Three.
But they finally did it. And they’ve been doing it since. Because, let’s face it, they’ve probably known how to do it for a whole year, and they were just laughing behind my back as I continued to slave over and baby them.
3) Clean up.
I’m not even going to go into detail about this one, but your child knows how to put toys away. He just does. He knows where they go because he has to go get them to throw around the house, right? And he’s seen you put them back hundreds of times. He knows what “pick up your toys” means. Don’t do it anymore.
We tackled this one a long time ago, and my kids are now adept at using silverware. But they’ll still be jerks about it when they remember. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched one of my kids aimlessly “try” to stab a piece of chicken, only to victoriously call out that she “can’t, it’s too hard.” Or they’ll push the fork so softly, holding it barely erect so that it will clatter to the floor before poking up that squash.
So many times, they’ve looked at me like, “see? I can’t do this.” And I’ve been like, “Well, use your right hand, then.” And done.
They know how. It’s that simple.
And the interesting thing about this is that they are happier doing things for themselves. They just don’t know it. They assume they’re happier having you do things for them because it shows you care, or it gives them attention from you, or whatever, but it’s probably almost as annoying to them as it is to you. Almost. They just get so used to the routine that they can’t imagine life any other way. And neither can you.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Stop the insanity. Your kids, and DEFINITELY my kids, can do almost anything by themselves. I just have to stop letting them convince me otherwise.
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