Putting Aside Perfection: Letting Your Younger Kids Help

Sometimes I need to give myself a gentle reminder— if I have the time, I need to find the patience to let my kids help me when they ask. It sounds like a no-brainer, but admit it — if you're a parent, you've probably suffered from "it'd be so much easier if I could just do it myself… " Whether it's loading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, or preparing lunch, our kids present us with a wonderful opportunity for teaching and bonding when they ask, "Can I help?"

I'm actually a little bit ashamed to admit that I ever turn my kids down when they ask to help — I'd like to imagine myself as a magazine-ready model mom, full of gentle patience and quiet instruction. But cut to a scene in everyday life, maybe a scene where I'm not quite in top form, not running on all cylinders, patience-wise — and I'm a bit more apt than I'd like to admit to turn down requests for "help." And I do mean "help" — oftentimes my three-year-old's efforts aren't exactly quick, tidy, efficient, or even moving us in the right direction. (Picture a toddler helping sweep up a pile of crumbs… concentrating hard, he deftly disperses the crumbs over a wider area than they originally covered in the first place.)

But this is where I'd like to press pause and ask myself, what's the point? If it's really to get the floor spotlessly clean, well… unless I am running a restaurant or an operating room, that can just wait for a little while. I have to remind myself that the point, the idea of it all, is to not just clean my floor but to be a parent. Be a parent while I clean my floor. Easier said than done, but here are some tips:

• Expect it to take longer. And be okay with it. Unless I'm running on a super tight schedule, I need to tell myself I can take a few minutes to help show my little one a good way to do something and watch while he tries it.

• Expect it to be done less-than-perfectly. And be okay with that, too. I can always sweep up after I graciously accept his help.

• If I really do just want to do it myself, find an alternative for the wanna-be assistant. "Yes, you can help! Here, you wipe up with this rag while I wipe up with this rag!" (I'm using cleaner, he's using water.)

• Keep my kitchen kid-help-friendly. I have all my kid cups and plates down low, in drawers, so if they want to unload the dishwasher, it's actually doable for them to tackle the kid items. It's also great to have a good stepstool on hand for the cooking helpers.

• Remember to appreciate this season of life. It sounds cliche, but these days won't last forever. In a good way and in a sentimental way. I need to remind myself to try not to take these opportunities for granted, and to take advantage of the little things when they are presented to me.

Share your stories and tips for letting young kids help out around the house!

(Image: Shutterstock)

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Sarah is a freelance writer and photographer and mother of four boys. Her hobbies include writing emails at 4 am, fixing up her century-old home, critiquing superhero spin kicks, and trying not to kill her garden.

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