Madame Montessori suggested that children imitate their parents and therefore are highly motivated to work. Your child wants to be just like you, so working together builds not only your relationship, but also confidence and competence. Making things together — cooking, baking, cleaning, washing dishes, setting the table and crafting particular objects with the recipient in mind — are both bonding activities and a lot of fun. Simple activities, whether inside or outside, that have a work ethic can make your child feel that she is growing up to be just like you.
No matter what age your child is, you can help them build a “mastery experience”. A mastery experience is just what it sounds like – an experience where someone feels they have mastered a skill or activity. This in turn leads to greater self-esteem and the belief in one’s ability to accomplish goals. Take cooking, for example. Whether we let a little one measure a cup of flour or help them cut a banana with a butter knife, or we let our teenager prepare the family’s dinner on occasion, we aren’t just getting help and quality time, we are preventing anxiety and depression by creating mastery experiences.
The key is to give to make it age-appropriate and set up goals they can accomplish. Most children and teenagers don’t have the attention span to work on a project for as long as most adults can. If we hold them to an adult standard of achievement, they miss the feelings of achievement that come with all of the steps along the way. And remember, achievement reduces the risk of depression. This doesn’t mean we have to reward kids for doing nothing, it just means we set goals on their level.