Preschool children: 2-4 years

At this stage, there is a great deal of variance in children's physical and motor development, so make sure that your expectations are relative to your child's ability. Focus more on developing your own child's abilities, rather than comparing to what other children you know are doing.

At this age, we want children to understand the concept of routines and structure, rather than master each task we set out for them. Expectations should be kept low to encourage your child completing the task. For example, if you want your child to build skills in dressing themselves, you may need to accept that the shirt and pants won't match, and there may be days, clothes, and moods that will cause more barriers to getting this done. Setting out options can be helpful for this challenge in particular.

Keep tasks at 1 to 2 steps at most; for example, "Sally, put your books on the shelf" and then "Now put the dolls in the bin". Verify if your child understands what is expected of them. For example, "Where do the toy cars go?" When there are challenges with routines, the first thing to check with the child is whether they a) understand the task and b) are capable of it.

Children at this stage often love to feel that they are helping, and they often do so by imitating their parent. Model the behaviour you want to see: how you put your things away, or how you follow a routine in the morning. Make routines fun and engaging to build a foundation where your child understands that they have responsibilities and they are appreciated.

School age children: 5-12 years

Children are growing immensely through involvement in school. Teachers are often working on solidifying the child's understanding of routine, structure, and personal accountability. Children should feel that the tasks laid out for them are doable as this brings about a feeling of confidence.

Children are developing an ability to problem solve, so make sure you are giving them age-appropriate space to practice this skill. If you were late for school one day, talk with your child to find out what their experience was that morning, and what works better for them on the days when you make it on time.

Children like to see rewards for their efforts - it makes them feel that they are capable. If your child is slow moving in the morning, it may be helpful to tailor expectations so that those which are easily accomplished come after the tasks that are more difficult. For example, if you have a child who takes an interest in the kitchen but dislikes brushing their teeth, ask them to get their teeth brushed before coming to help pick out their lunch snacks.

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