My Biggest Parenting Regret

Boy and girl eating in the park

Over the years, I’ve made plenty of parenting mistakes. From little things like forgetting the sun cream (resulting in Hell’s Itch) and not believing them when they said they felt sick (resulting in them throwing up at school) to the things that have a bigger impact like not deferring boy child’s school entry and not doing NCT classes. However my biggest parenting regret is doing too much for my children instead of encouraging them to do things for themselves.


Struggling with a Baby and Toddler

I guess it probably started after I had Girl Child. Life with a baby and toddler is chaotic and I always seemed to be in a rush. When Boy Child was the age when he should have been learning to put his shoes on, I was permanently late so it was easier to do it for him. When I should have been letting him have a go at cutting his food, I was keen to get bedtime started so did it for him. When he tried to zip up his coat, I found it so frustrating to watch that I did it for him.

The other problem I had is that, truth be told, I’m a bit of a control freak. When I should have been letting him help me, I wanted to do it myself so that it would be done right. This extended to tidying up because I felt he’d put things in the wrong place. At the time I couldn’t see that he needed to be allowed to make these mistakes in order to learn.


Realising my Mistake

On some level I think I knew I shouldn’t be doing these things. At the time I wasn’t really thinking very far ahead, just getting through the day. When Girl Child’s time came to start doing things for herself, it was quite different. She was the “I can do it myself” child who wouldn’t have let me help if I tried. Boy Child never hit that phase. He started school still unable to use a knife and fork, get himself dressed for PE or zip up his coat. I imagine I was not popular with his reception teacher. 

Not being able to do the things that most other children in his class could do only seemed to convince him that he wasn’t able to do things for himself. Luckily he’s a creative problem solver. He soon had all the girls helping him to change after PE and to zip his coat up at the end of the day. At home we had to work hard to overcome his defeatist attitude so that he could learn. Eventually he came home with a head teachers award for learning to zip up his own coat.


The Future

Now that the fog of the early years has lifted, I’m keen to encourage both children to do things for themselves. Boy Child can make tea and toast and they can both make their own cereal. On the days where there’s time, they both make their own pack lunches. They put away their own washing each week. We make sure they tidy up at the end of the day instead of us. They no longer ask me every time they need a drink and are starting to take responsibility for their own personal hygiene.

I wish I could go back in time and give my early motherhood self a good talking to. These are the things I would tell myself to let them do as soon as they were capable of trying

  • Put on their own shoes
  • Pit on and zip up their own coats
  • Choose and put on their clothes for the day, including socks
  • Pour their own drink from a jug
  • Climb into their own car seat
  • Do up their own seat belt
  • Wash themselves
  • Tidy up their own toys
  • Make their own bed
  • Open and close their own curtains
  • Wipe their own bums!


There are probably loads more but those ones would be a good start and would fit well with our Free Range Parenting goals. I’d love to know what you wish you’d taught your children to do earlier.

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My biggest parenting regret


  1. July 16, 2019 / 10:27 am

    About to head into the fog of a toddler and a newborn! Will definitely take this list forward with me to try and get my toddler doing more for herself.

  2. July 16, 2019 / 6:13 pm

    I totally understand this, (mine are 4 and 2) and like you, having a baby and a toddler in those early days meant it was just not possible to allow a 2 year old 45 minutes to attempt to do up his own coat. Now he’s 4 it’s a lot easier but he is definitely lazy when it comes to particular things. But at his school introductory parents meeting, there was a parent worrying about accidents and nappies, so it could be worse!

  3. July 16, 2019 / 8:14 pm

    I’m so guilty of this too. He can do the basics in self care but he is a pain for doing things round the house… his future wife/husband will hate me for that!

  4. July 16, 2019 / 8:28 pm

    I only have the one, and find myself stopping myself rushing him — so I completely understand where you’re coming from. To an extent anyway, my toddler is a handful and imagining two of him makes me nervous! I do love him dearly though. 💚😍

  5. July 16, 2019 / 8:41 pm

    I totally get this! I’m juggling 3 boys under 5 and to get out of the house on time is a major undertaking…so my patience with letting James (2) put his shoes on himself (on the wrong feet obviously) and Stanley (5) (takes an absolute age) to find his sunhat and hoodie wears pretty thin when I’ve got a baby too. So I end up doing it to speed the process up. They do some of the things on your list though so I’m calling that a win!

  6. July 16, 2019 / 9:00 pm

    My eldest is seven and still really struggles with the concept of choosing his own clothes. On school days, he’s fine because he knows it’s school uniform but holidays and weekends really throw him!

  7. July 16, 2019 / 9:39 pm

    I feel the same. My daughter is 9 and has special needs but she still can’t do most of the above. I will definitely be working on these.
    Great post thank you

  8. July 17, 2019 / 4:09 pm

    Wow! It’s if I wrote this post myself! I had the exact same situation. LOL. My son is perfectly fine with me doing this for him and my daughter wants to do everything by herself. I am at the stage of encouraging him to be more independent, which is going really great (thank goodness).😊

  9. July 18, 2019 / 5:32 pm

    I absolutely agree with this… for a while now I’ve let my son do his own little tasks if he can. He has his own mind and skills and should use them.

    I think so many teenagers/young adults don’t seem to have simple looking after themselves skills and I don’t want my son to be one of them.

  10. July 20, 2019 / 8:28 am

    Really similar for us too. My eldest always waits for help whist my youngest just gets on with it refusing any help offered!

  11. July 20, 2019 / 11:29 am

    I’m glad I read this while my daughter is still a baby so I can learn from your mistakes. I am massively overprotective and a bit of a control freak so I can see myself wanting to do things for her. Whereas her dad wants her to be as independent as possible. Hopefully we’ll get a good balance going.

  12. July 20, 2019 / 8:59 pm

    My son has special needs (he’s 21 now), I did have to help him with a lot as he couldn’t do it for himself. But we made the mistake of over compensating with buying him toys etc. When we had our daughter she was quick to learn everything, even that her brother got more than her, which caused a whole set of new problems. Now they are older things are better, but I would do things differently if I had the chance.

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