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Posts Tagged ‘age appropriate tasks’

Do you ever wonder if you are giving your kids too much or doing too much for them? I thought maybe it would get easier to determine this as my children got older. Now I find myself with a teen and a tween, and I am discovering this question never goes away.

A couple of years ago I came across a book called “How Much Is Too Much?: Raising Likeable, Responsible and Respectful Children in an Age of Overindulgence.” A team of researchers including Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson and David Bredehoft, has conducted studies over the past two decades about the effects of overindulgence on children and how this affects them as they grow up to be adults.

Teenage girl wearing sparkly pink clothing and a tiara, talking on a cell phone.

My first thoughts about overindulgence were garbage bags full of birthday and Christmas presents or towering ice cream sundaes dripping with sticky toppings. But these researchers define overindulgence as “giving too much of anything to a child so that it slows their learning and developmental tasks.” Overindulgence hinders children from learning the necessary life lessons and skills needed to thrive as adults.

One question parents can ask themselves is: “Will doing or giving this keep my child from learning what he or she needs to learn at this age?”

I think that naturally leads to the questions, “what is developmentally appropriate for children at different ages and how much can kids really handle?” Here is some research-based guidance about expectations that are appropriate for children at every stage of development.

At different stages, we become capable of learning and experiencing different things. Here are some key words to describe the expectations in each stage of development:  

  • Prenatal is “becoming”
  • Birth to 6 months is “being”
  • 6 to 18 months is “doing”
  • 18 months to 3 years is “thinking”
  • 3 to 6 years is “identity & power”
  • 6 to 12 years is “structure”
  • 12 to 18 years is “identity, sexuality & separation”

You may not think that a 6 to 18-month-old child could have a “job,” but one of the expectations is that they begin to signal their needs and to form secure attachments with parents. They also should begin to learn that there are options in life and not all problems are easily solved.

The 18-month-old to 3-year-old child is beginning to establish the ability to think for themselves. They should can follow simple safety commands such as stop, go, and wait. This is the time they begin to express anger and other feelings. They can also begin to do simple chores at this point.

During the pre-school ages of 3 to 6 years old, children learn that behaviors have both positive and negative consequences. They begin to separate fantasy from reality as they move through this stage. They also begin to learn what they have power over and express preferences.

A father teaching his son to wash dishes.

I feel like I’ve been in the 6 to 12-year-old phase for a while now as a parent. I love one of the phrases that Clarke uses: “To learn when to flee, when to flow, and when to stand firm.” This is also the age when they gradually become skillful at and responsible for complex household chores. My son was doing all our household laundry at age 9. He would continue to ask questions to validate his sorting skills, but he had the mechanics down.

And then we come to adolescence, ages 13-19. Their jobs are to emerge gradually, as a separate, independent person with their own identity and values within the context of the family. Although they continue to participate in family celebrations and rituals, much energy is spent on finding a healthy peer group.

Parenting is a tough job. Keep the end in mind. If we want to raise responsible adults, then helping them develop skills and competence at each stage of development is the greatest gift we can give them.

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County

Sources:

University of Minnesota Extension. Parenting in the Age of Overindulgence Online Course. Retrieved October 12, 2020 at https://extension.umn.edu/courses-and-events/parenting-age-overindulgence-online-course

Schrick, B. Appropriate Chores by Age: 2 – Teen. University of Arkansas Research and Extension. Retrieved October 12, 2020 at https://www.uaex.edu/life-skills-wellness/personal-family-well-being/family-life-fridays-blog/posts/images/Appropriate%20Chores%20by%20Age.pdf

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