cutting food

The other week my sister told me a story about her three-and-a-half year old daughter, Maya. Maya was taking her bath while my sister was tending to her four-month-old baby sister, Lucy. Ever the bright go-getter, Maya stepped out of the tub and for the first time in her life dried herself off, rubbed cream all over herself, brushed her wet hair, and put on her pajamas. My sister was shocked to see her, and proud, and a little sad. As a mom of two boys, ages 5 and 3, my first response to this story was, Wow, girls are light years ahead of boys! Then I had to admit to myself that I don’t foster this kind of self-sufficiency in my kids at all. I still bathe my 5-year-old, brush his teeth, comb his hair, shove bites of dinner into his mouth, and dress him. (I’m like a pedicurist, kneeling in front of him and tapping his shins to put on his pants and shoes as he colors or plays on the iPad.) I know he can do all of these things on his own; he’s done them. And my 3-year-old can too, and often does. But you know what? I’m just not going to worry about it. As a fellow kindergarten mom said to her kid the other morning at drop-off, “I love you like crazy! Like a lunatic!” For me, that sentiment means that I need to hug and squeeze those boys as much as humanly possible, because even though I know they will always be mine, I still miss them every second, even when I’m with them.


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Comments (5)


  1. Posted by: Jen

    This is one of the hardest things for me to balance – when can my 5 year old do things for himself? I recently read somewhere that a reasonable age for kids to start bathing themselves on a regular basis is between 6 and 7 (as in unsupervised, start to finish). So I guess that means I should start to give him some more responsibilty to do some of that work for himself starting around now. But I struggle with forcing myself not to clear his plate from the dinner table and clean up after him, because after it’s easier to do that in the short term (especially since I only have one) but I know logically that it’s not easier in the long term!

  2. Posted by: katy

    As a preschool teacher, I have to say *please* strongly encourage your children to feed themselves! It’s great for developing the fine motor skills that they’ll need when learning to write, and I can’t tell you how many children come to my class having been spoon-fed at home up through age 4-5, and they really struggle at lunchtime to eat their lunch within the allotted time.

  3. as the mother of two girls (11 and 7) i can tell you it will be a lot harder to get your kids to be independent later on in life if you haven’t given them the self confidence they need to succeed on their own from an early age. my kids feel pride in taking care of most of their personal needs, it seems more like an issue with the moms than the kids. maya just jumped out of the tub and took care of herself, when my girls did the same,i praised them for it. it doesn’t mean they don’t love or need me, it means they were smart enough to know what to do and brave enough to do it.

  4. Posted by: StinkBugsMama

    FYI- my pediatric dentist recommends to let your child (4+) brush their teeth on their own, but then help them in the back and floss them daily (we use “plackers” little floss on a handle) until age 7. Yes, it’s hard to get the right balance, but sometimes I really appreciate an “expert” telling me what to do!

  5. Posted by: Susana

    I recently read an article (peer reviewed) about the importance of develop independence in the preschool years. The self confidence and success people have in life has to do with early independence. Hug them, love them but make sure they are self efficient.

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