Readers — Here’s a nice bit of advice from the daddy behind The Diaper Chronicles, Barack Levin. First, his biography, then his tips!
I was born in 1970 in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to Pittsburgh in 1996 to pursue my master’s degree. Shortly after my arrival I met a beautiful French woman named Michelle and fell in love. A year later, during a routine physical, I learned I had an irreversible and life-threatening kidney disease. I was 26 years old, and the doctor doubted that I’d see 30. In the face of this news, I refused to give up my dream of marrying Michelle and raising a multi-national family in the US.
Thirteen years later, I am still alive and reside in. I am living on borrowed time, and despite everyone I knew telling me I was crazy, I decided to become a stay/work-at-home dad and shoulder most of the responsibility of caring for my son for his first year of life (and, potentially, the last twelve months of mine). I wanted to offer him proper guidance, using some very unconventional methods, through the first steps of his journey to becoming a fantastic kid and a great man—a journey I feared I might not be around to witness much of.
So here’s his tip for getting your kid to carry his own weight:
One Easy First Lesson Toward Raising Independent, Happy Children
Once I saw a 3-year old and his mother going to daycare. It was winter time, and the mom was loaded down, carrying her son, his bag, a rain coat, an umbrella and a stuffed toy. That simple picture made me sad for both child and parent. It was not raining, so the mom had no reason to carry the child and his entourage. I decided then and there it would be different with my child.
In my opinion, the key to raising independent kids is to teach them responsibility and accountability. Obviously, you can’t go up to a two-year-old and say, “Listen, Alex, today you will be responsible for cleaning your room and if not, you will be held accountable!” So instead, I am taking small daily actions that teach him these values. I came up with the following little nifty trick for toddlers. It worked for me:
Step 1: For a week, start to show your toddler that mommy and daddy carry their own bags, purse, or wallet to work, to the store, etc. Let your little one check the bag contents. Each day, ask your toddler to help you by putting in or taking out an item. Compliment him. He will be supercharged with excitement because he is “helping” you.
Step 2: At the end of the week, start showing your little one that big kids from his daycare and friends or relatives carry their own bags. Wouldn’t he like to have one, too?
Step 3: Get the bag! Take him to Wal-Mart or Target and let him choose.
Step 4: Back home, ask him to bring his favorite items and place them somewhere he can easily reach. Now ask: “What would you like to put in your new bag?” He’ll run to get it! Once the items are inside, let him walk around proudly with his brand new bag.
Step 5: Leave the bag close to the door so that every time you leave the house, there it is, reminding him to take it. You and your little one may be forgetful at first, but within two to three days it will become second nature for him to take the bag with him. Best of all: You can “hitchhike” by putting in the rest of his items: diapers, food and more.
Just think how this one simple habit will make life so much easier for your child — and you! I’d be so happy if the rest of you parents shared your stories and advice about helping our children become happily independent kids. You may send your stories and comments to me via my site: baracklevin.com
Barack Levin is author of the book “The Diaper Chronicles – A stay at home dad’s quest for raising great kids,” available through his website. And by the way, we here at Free-Range Kids love tips on making kids responsible and independent, too.