By Giny Mackey, M.A., CCC-SLP
You’ve heard the phrase “one step at a time”? Skill development in all areas follows this mantra. Think about the earliest development of your child—motor skills. He/she had to learn to sit up alone before crawling before standing and before walking. She/he had to learn to drink before eating pureed food (baby food) before chewing and swallowing whole foods. You get the idea.
Learning independence or the ability to be in control of oneself and our actions also follows a continuum. Here are some examples:
- You had to teach your child a routine for getting ready for bed by helping them until they were able to do it themselves.
- You had to help your baby learn to fall asleep in their own bed before you could expect them to stay in their own bed during the night or for them to learn to fall back asleep without anyone’s assistance when they awoke during the night.
- You had to dress your child until they were able to put their clothes on without your guidance.
- You must set up a routine for homework completion before your child will be able to do it without your constant direction.
Sometimes we adults expect a child to be able to do certain tasks without being told or helped in some way. We wonder why they are unable to do this. But sometimes it is because we have missed instruction or setting expectations for developing the steps to that skill. And they become stuck at a certain level. Remembering that our job as adults is to prepare each child to use their own wings to fly by the time they leave the nest (even if they need the help of others in the flock), we must make sure that we have lead them to follow the steps necessary to be independent—in self-care, dressing, choosing their clothes, sleeping in their own bed, following a routine in the mornings or at bedtime, cleaning up toys and belongings, doing their homework, working in the classroom, etc.
Establishing routines for them to follow can help to create order in your home as well as in their life. When we have organization and order, our brains are better able to respond to learning, life’s demands, and thinking.