Teaching children to be helpful

The first ‘job’ of children is to have fun and, luckily, most are highly qualified. Some are better at it than others — four-year-old Brendan’s mother told us: ‘He just loves to play. He will play with anything. Give him two rocks and a stick, and he is in heaven.’

Happiness grows naturally. Babies who are loved and cared for will take pleasure in simply being. As they grow and become physically capa-ble, they will automatically learn the pleasure of doing.

Kids start their learning by copying the things you do for them. A six-month-old baby will try to feed you their soggy toast. A toddler will bring you a ‘tup of tea’ (a toy cup filled with sand). They will pick up things you dropped: ‘Here yar, Mum.’ Soon they demand to help and to be self- reliant: ‘Me do it by self.’ They will put their gumboots on back to front and defiantly try to walk in them, rather than seek help, and squeal if you try to speed up their buttoning. They also copy older children, conscientiously trying to be just like the big kids — a mixed blessing, indeed. At first, we can help our children to do things for themselves — from holding their own cup to eating, dressing, toileting and so on. Then they will start to learn to do things for others. To begin with, teach them simple things, such as:

– Being gentle when they play with you.

– Picking up things.

– Being polite, saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’, saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.