The surprising secret to developing the behavior you want? Tell your kid you’re unsure he can do the task, whether it’s picking out clothes solo, packing books, or sitting down to breakfast. “Parents sometimes have a misguided view that reasoning with a child is the way to get him to change his behavior,” notes Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D., director of the Yale Parenting Center. “But if you just say, ‘I don’t think you can get dressed all by yourself. Only big boys can do that,’ kids will often respond, ‘Oh, no, I can!’” Once your little one successfully completes a task, heap praise on him — it’ll encourage a repeat performance.
Your kiddo won’t master the independence thing overnight; self-sufficiency requires repetition. The good news: About two weeks of dedication is all parents need to get kids with the program. “During that time, help your child through each activity,” explains Kazdin. “Then fade out those prompts.”
Do some prep
A little advance legwork can save a lot of hand-holding during the morning rush. So set your child up for success by readying easy-to-forget essentials (calculator, tissue pack, flash cards, etc.) in the evening. Bag up lunch and put it on a low shelf in the fridge so kids can reach it at go time.
Set a fast pace
Despite your best efforts, there are going to be days when the kids dawdle. What to do? Play a Beat The Clock game. Pick related tasks (think: brushing hair and teeth and washing hands), set a timer for five minutes, and ask your kid if he can do them all before the buzzer rings. Every time he succeeds, give him a point to be used for a treat. Your reward: a few precious hands-off moments to sip coffee!
Desperate to get out the door but faced with a little one’s histrionics? Keep cool. The more stressed you get, the less likely your kid will do what you’re asking. Take a deep breath and, if you need to, walk to the other end of the house to decompress. Remember, you can try again tomorrow!