My perfectly capable three-year old asks: “Mommy, can you get a spoon please?”
What do you do?
The question seems innocent enough, and he even used the magic word! Most parents would just get the spoon. What’s the harm? Honestly, there is nothing wrong with this choice, but I challenge the decision - especially when happens ALL THE TIME. By frequently complying to these simple requests we unintentionally teach children we are willing to be more of a “concierge parent” then setting the expectation that they should help out. Let me be clear – if they are capable - they SHOULD help out. When you have four children it’s a matter of survival, but even if your family isn’t as large – it’s an invaluable life skill.
To further illustrate how this scenario becomes a slippery
slope in my house, here’s how it plays out. If I get the spoon for the three-year old, then the seven-year old, AND the nine-year old (and sometimes even the eleven-year old) wants ME to get spoons for them too. It turns into some weird competition for my attention. For good measure, since I’m up, they ask if I can get their cups, extra napkins, and perhaps even a cappuccino or two (just kidding on the espresso). It’s no wonder if I get the spoon - the compounding affect leaves me exhausted and frustrated and never being able to eat in peace!
I have implemented some simple home décor hacks to help alleviate the tension that can build from these simple requests. For example, we have two silverware stations in our home. One location is in the predictable drawer in the kitchen. When children are very young, this can be difficult to reach. Even as kids are tall enough to reach the utensils, too many bodies in the kitchen can became problematic. A second utensil station installed at their height allows them to get their own supplies without getting in the way. Our second station hangs low on the wall in small buckets near the dining table - a separate bucket for each type of utensil. Now there are no excuses when I respond to their requests to get their spoons: “You are perfectly capable of getting it yourself.”
One final thought on this matter, we should be mindful of what we tolerate. Our behavior models what is acceptable to them. Thus, if I allow myself to be worn out and subjected to their every request I’m teaching them that is it “ok” for them to be treated the same as they grow up. Yikes! It’s better to model healthy boundaries and expectations of how important it is to pitch in and work like a team so we can all enjoy our spoons in our cappuccinos (and eat in peace).