[Why haven’t I posted this before? I don’t know, why haven’t I posted this before?! First written in February 2016.]
Start with small people and small things, if you can. If you have a “My do it MY-SELF!” person, so much the better — let My tackle all the things where the outcome isn’t a safety issue. You’ll need to allow time, however. Lots and lots of time. Sometimes there won’t be the time, and hustling will need to occur, but better to allow time.
Good news: with allowing times comes setting bounds, or boundaries if you like that word better. We would use 30 minutes for toddler dressing, from concept to ready-for-breakfast. That was one boundary: “We have 10 minutes left before breakfast. It’s time for you to pick, or Mommy picks today.” The other boundary? Everything available fit, was in good repair, was seasonally appropriate, and parents could live with. I would rifle through their closet and drawers when they were busy elsewhere in order to make sure this was the case.
Dressing is a great one to show how agency-practice works over time. With toddlers, you’re in the room and you’re popping the clothes on the person. Soon My wants you to see how she can pull on her own pants, or shirt (tricky), or socks (oddly challenging). This takes longer than you popping them on… but this is GREAT. You are a smiling audience. You may even be willing to let backwards clothes go; after all, is it a health or safety issue?
Now that we’re all on board with self-dressing, you’re in roving monitor mode, checking in to make sure morning prep is proceeding without roadblocks. As with any delegated task, you’ll be measuring activities and outcomes against the quality standard, refining as My’s skills improve. Flossing has to be added at some point, after all: health issue!
In the Hollywood ending version, you have so successfully delegated the morning tasks that by the teen years you are completely superfluous and hide in your bedroom pretending to be asleep until they head out to school. Not that I did that, or do that still-!
This is why it’s so very very very worth all the up-front time. Independent teens have fewer opportunities to argue and yell–after all, if My has been in charge of her own alarm-clock for years, it’s hard for her to suddenly make the case that it’s your fault she missed the bus. Winning!