Dear Diary,

As a middle school teacher, I have witnessed countless parenting styles and have combined some of those examples with my upbringing to develop my own set of standards. In my family, and probably yours, generations don’t always agree on how to raise children. I’m sure you can recall your parents or grandparents suggesting how you should handle certain situations. Although the journey through motherhood may take us down different paths, the final destination is usually the same. Most of us want to raise independent, responsible and accountable kids

I am developing my 2.5-year-old son, J, to be all those things and more. Here’s why your toddler should have chores.


It is important to me that J makes his own decisions whenever appropriate. He is encouraged to make choices regarding his meals, clothing, routines and activities. Often I can anticipate his choices but giving J options allows him to feel like a big kid. Plus it allows me to juggle two kids–I also have a newborn daughter at home.

J loves to pick out his own dinnerware at meals from an accessible cabinet in the kitchen. Having his own plate and fork makes green beans that much more appealing! J is also adamant about taking off his own coat and shoes, and I am not allowed to help him unless he asks. You can lay your toddler’s coat in front of him. Make sure it’s upside down, so the collar is closest to the child. Then have him slip his arms inside and flip it over his head.

Choices are especially important when children are resistant to change or get bored with routine. My son often says he doesn’t want to brush his teeth but when given the opportunity to choose between his Thomas the Train or Cars toothpaste, he becomes re-energized.


J inherited his obsessive-compulsive gene from my husband. Since he was about 14 months old, he has been responsible for cleaning up the messes he makes, within reason. I do not pick up his toys for him, and I offer him a napkin to clean up spills on his highchair tray. He will even sing a clean up song learned at school. I have even made cleaning up a game by placing some of his toys in the wrong bin and asking him to correct me. J willingly participates in household chores and even enjoys placing his clothes in the hamper and helping me do laundry. After dinner, he grabs his broom and helps sweep the kitchen floor. Including him in chores at an early age allows us to develop a household routine of family responsibilities.

As a typical toddler, J makes hundreds of requests every day. He does not get what he wants unless he says “please”. He often has to be reminded to say “please” but almost always says “thank you”. I now have to remember to say “you’re welcome” or he will say it for me. Sometimes I have to keep myself from smiling or laughing when he attempts to refuse his vegetables or bath time by saying “no, thank you”. We are also working on him saying “yes, ma’am/sir” or “no, ma’am/sir”.


As he gets older, I want J to make the best choices possible, however, I am not naïve that he will make mistakes. When he does, I want him to hold himself accountable first before anyone else has to.

Navigating through the terrific two’s, J is exercising his right to have different opinions from Mami, Daddy, and his teachers and has thrown several tantrums at home and school. Once he has calmed down, we discuss the situation and everyone’s reaction to it. I have apologized to J for the way I handled one of his tantrums and in turn, he has apologized to me. While he may not understand everything right now, I want him to realize that he will be held accountable for his actions. With the recent arrival of his little sister, I am also making sure that I am praising his positive interactions with her.

None of this is rocket science but it helps to have the foundation that my mom laid for me as I raise my children to be independent, responsible, and accountable. A family that is dedicated to routines, communication, and lots of love will find this to be a challenging process but one that will have a high return on investment.

Hey DFTM Fam–How are you raising your children to be independent, responsible and accountable?

About The Author

Kerrin Meriwether
Teachable Moments Mom/Senior Editor

Kerrin is married mom raising a 2 1/2-year-old son and a 2-month-old daughter in Clarksburg, Maryland. he writes from an educator's perspective about life's teachable moments for young children. She loves being a mom, because she enjoys seeing life through her little ones' eyes. When not writing for DFTM, Kerrin teaches English Language Arts to middle school ESOL students and manages a local tutoring company, Believe in Yourself Tutoring.

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