Question for those who's difficult child is doing better

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by moonglow, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. moonglow

    moonglow New Member

    For those that don't know me..I started posting on here when my son was just three due to the violent rages he was having. Long story which I won't repeat as you all know the story as you have lived it. He also had a learning disability which I got an IEP for and he got the help he needed and really processed through the years. He is now in 7th grade and recent testing showed he is doing so well they dismissed him and say he no longer has an Learning Disability (LD) problem which of course I am thrilled about. He also has ADHD and an anxiety disorder and on medications for both. Anyway for years...well all his school years I have given him few chores or responsibilities to do around the house because I wanted to keep his stress level as low as possible so he could focus on his schoolwork. Even last year he would still get so stressed out at times doing homework. Still has a few time this year but not getting all hysterical about it like in the past. Its has taken everything in him to get through the school days and handle it..then more in doing homework and that was literally all emotionally he could handle for years.

    Now when he gets home from school he takes a little break, eats a snack then gets his homework out and does it without me saying a thing! Its amazing. Almost wonder if someone switch my son with another No nagging to get it done and no dealing with half meltdowns when he does do it.

    So here is the thing, since he is doing so well and gets his homework done usually before supper, then he has all evening to do other things. He does chat with friends on the computer and plays games but I think its time he start doing more around the house. I am a single mom and disabled with a bad back and would like the help. He does mow the yard and uses the weed eater...and will be helping with getting the leaves up in the yard. But I mean things around the house.

    I know with his anxiety he doesn't like change so I have to approach this slowly and not demand he do a bunch of things that he doesn't even know how to do yet because I have had him focus on school work and not taught him these things yet.

    So I am wondering how those of you who have difficult child's that are doing better have approached this with yours? Right now I am not even sure what I want him to do as I have done nearly everything as far as house work and cooking, cleaning up the kitchen, etc on my own forever. Part of me also doesn't want him to mess with my stuff too! lol. you know how it is you like doing things 'your way' and everyone's else way is wrong? mmmm. So I need to adjust to this idea too. But he has to learn if he is ever going to be able to take care of himself one day when he is an adult. So I am not sure where to start with this..any ideas? thanks

  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    A couple of thoughts for you:

    You could ask him what he would like to learn to do. Kids do better when they're interested in a specific task.

    You could do something together, such as making the family meal together once a week -- everything from planning the menu to shopping for ingredients to preparing and cooking the food.

    Good luck.
  3. moonglow

    moonglow New Member

    Duh on me, I should have thought of that...asking him what he would like to learn first..

    Thanks for that! Now last evening I had him put his muscles to work mashing potatoes! lol. The dumb things had cooked for 45 minutes and were still not soft.. I thought he was going to break the burner the pot was sitting on cause he was really mashing the potatoes! eek! Had him move the pot to the counter actually...
  4. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    To piggyback on SW suggestion...maybe tell him you want to teach him how to wash his own clothes now so he will know how. And show him. Then make him responsible for that task. All my kids had to do their own clothes by that age. Ok...take that back...Cory and Jamie did. Billy lived with my mom and she never taught him anything!

    Start teaching him slowly how to cook, show him how to wash dishes or run the dishwasher if you have one. How the vacuum cleaner works. etc.
  5. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I like that idea, too! My son helped me cook some because he wanted to, which was fine with me and it did help me along with giving us a little time to chat while he learned something.

    I was thinking of offering a small reward each time he did his own laundry (or part of it- like folding his clothes) or helped clean the house.
  6. moonglow

    moonglow New Member

    Thanks. Years ago I tried to have him vacuum and he was terrible at it. He goes all over the place and missed large areas. So I kind of gave up on that one. But that was a long time ago so maybe he could handle it now. He does know how to cook mac and cheese as one time he asked to learn to do that. And I have shown him how to use the washer and had him help with that some. I really don't want us to wash our clothes separately as that would take more washing and drying..I am cheap. Most of the time one load gets all our clothes done and I wash twice a week. Winter though our clothes are bigger so takes two loads. So that might work when we get our winter clothes out. Have him do his own cause it will take two loads.

    Tackling the loading of the dishwasher will be interesting...might save that one for last...:/

    Thanks for all the suggestions. :)
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Lets see...what would be some good chores.

    Emptying the dishwasher.
    Sweeping, mopping the floor
    picking up clutter
    taking trash out
    taking trash can to curb and back again
    cleaning his room
    folding his clothes and putting away
    wiping down counters
    cleaning toilets
    cleaning tub

    Now...what you may want to do is show him how to do all these things and then have a chore jar and let him pick two or three slips of paper out of the chore jar at a time. Say...maybe his regular chore is to keep his room clean and to fold and take his clothes to his room. But on Saturdays he gets to pick 3 chores from the chore jar as his saturday chores.
  8. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    As far as the vacuuming (and other similar tasks), as is everything with difficult child's, the attempt and the effort is far more important than the end result...just a reminder as you ask him to do things. Half-hiney doing things is not ok...however, a true attempt with not-so-stellar results is.

    And I found "would you help me" was met with less resistance than "this is your responsibility" day in and day out.

    Just my .02. Not much.
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    My son is sixteen, so maybe he's older than yours, and he has a high functioning form of autism so he also doesn't like change. However, he has learned to deal with change and never melts down or rages...not for years and years and years.

    He likes to earn money so I offer him a list of chores that he can do to make certain amounts of money. He mows the lawn, does the dishes (not always the best, but he tries), does his own laundry and cleans his room without me even telling him to. He doesn't like a mess. He also will walk the dogs on his He takes out the trash every night. So the money incentive works well here. He is eager, even asks if I have stuff for him to do. And the payoff isn't big. We don't have that much money to just dish out. At times he does things on his own or says, "You don't have to pay me. I don't care."
  10. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Right this second (knock on wood and lighting a candle) our daughter is doing a little better (although her concerns might be more significant and she is older).

    We have found taking baby steps...doing things on a graduated step process...a winning process.

    One has to be careful not to put negative ideas in their head that they are not capable human beings

    So, for example, if you have him vacuum, for now and for some time, have him vaccum only a small an area rug.

    Or you start the vacuuming and have him finish and them praise him for the help. Figure out something you do the perimeter and he does the center.

    Six months from now...have him do the entire rug.
  11. moonglow

    moonglow New Member

    Hi, Agent Gibs! Love your show! lol.

    Thanks for the suggestions. :)

    He does do several of those on the list..not always on a regular basis though, but then half the time I don't think to just ask him to do something like take the trash out. Like I said, I am in the habit of doing most things my self..going to be hard to remember not to and ask him too first..

    On and on the vacuuming...we don't have any area rugs. And due to our bad allergies it has to be done thoroughly ... I have to vacuum weekly to keep down the pet hair otherwise we get really miserable with our allergies. Nate is still hyper...his idea of doing some of these more physical things is well...he is too rough and tries to rush things. He is good on yard work because he can be more physical. Our vacuum cleaner is held together by duck tape as it is and I don't think could survive Nate..

    Nate barrels through things like a bull in a china cabinet. He likes moping the kitchen floor and sometimes will mop just for something to

    He makes me a nervous wreck in the kitchen though when he tries to help with cooking cause he is well...hyper. He did just finish a home economic class where they did some cooking and he enjoyed that and apparently the class didn't burn
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2009
  12. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    Hi Moonglow. It's nice to hear how well difficult child is doing.
    Truthfully, the fact he cuts the grass and does the trim is pretty impressive. Especially for a 7th grader who has to work at keeping things together.

    Maybe the goal is to help him learn steps to being independent. How to load a dishwasher, how to clean his room. This is a biggie for my difficult child because cleaning it doesn't have a specific chore. The plan is trash in trashcan, laundry in hamper, books and entertainment stuff where it belongs. After getting that much done, vacuuming a small area like his room is not so huge a task. Be very specific about the steps to completing a chore.
    I think teaching him to clean a bathroom(don't expect that to go over big) do dishes, take out trash without being told, etc are all good things to start on.

    My thinking has always been, if I disappeared am I preparing him to handle life? He now pours his medications for a week at a time, call the pharmacy for refills and picks them up. I have nothing to do with them. He didn't really understand why he had to learn it. I told him if I died then he would have to know what to do. He was ok with that explanation. If your difficult child is anxious about death or loss then I wouldn't be so blunt.

    As with any parent and any child our job is to help them learn the steps to adulthood and independence in a gradual natural way. It also teaches that every member contributes to the family's functioning. Approaching it in a way that makes it something he needs and will feel proud of goes a lot farther then difficult child thinking "mom is lazy and doesn't want to do it so she forces me to do it". This will be a guaranteed oppositional response to learning independence.

    I also caution to do small things. Maybe only one or two easy chores a night. One bigger one on the weekend. You don't want to create a lot of anxiety and frustration. Make it fun, offer him rewards, and keep the goal of teaching responsibility when he is an adult in mind.

    This is my way of looking at it.
  13. moonglow

    moonglow New Member

    Nice to see you too Fran! Wish I have a hug smilie for you. :)

    That sounds like a good idea...good plan and that is my intentions of course to have him know how to take care of himself when he is on his own. I had a horrible time a few years ago to get him to get his own drink...pour his own cereal, heat up a hot dog in the microwave cause 'mom always did it' in his mind. He really fought that change just on that! But he has come a long ways, like I said. I had less of a problem getting him to put his clothes in the hamper, picking up after himself but that was because he knew he would get an allowance for doing that. greedy kid I guess...

    For a long time I paid him to mow and weed eat but since he also got off of disablitly ...they reviewed his case and decided he was no longer disabled, I paid him less and less often because I couldn't afford it. Then all this past summer didn't pay him at all. But I thought that was a good thing because he needs to contribute to this family..even if its just the two of us and not be paid all the time for doing it. We would split the mowing the smaller back yard and him the larger front and sides as my back got worse. I didn't want to totally stop mowing fearing what exercise I was getting from mowing and staying active would weaken my back muscles even more. So I kept doing the back yard. And usually in the past years once school started I didn't have him do the yard work at all so he could focus on school work. Then winter would come so that was no problem.

    Anyway yes I agree starting with small things during the week is a good idea. Since he was dismissed from the IEP he no longer goes to the Special Education enrichment class where all he was doing was his homework the draw back on him not going there anymore is he has more homework now to do at home. He was moved to a regular enrichment class that only has 'study hall' twice a week for schoolwork. :( Sooooo not sure he if he is going to be over loaded with more homework at home now or not. He missed all of school last week due to the flu so is catching up right now. We'll see how bad it is after he catches up. Once he adjust to the changes at school then I can start doing some of this.

    Thanks again for everyone's suggestions! :)

  14. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    Sounds like both of you are in a much more relaxed state. Of course, aren't we more relaxed when the kids are doing better. Good luck with mainstream classes. I can hardly believe he is 13.
  15. moonglow

    moonglow New Member

    Yea he was a cute little bug I called Nat when I joined, then decided maybe that nickname wasn't quite right so changed it to Nate. Meanwhile he grew into a tall skinny teenager! He is at least five six now and I am only five two...wah. He enjoys towering over me after all the years I did short jokes on Pay back time...knew it was coming so I had to get my short jokes in while I could. heh.

    Glad things are going well with your son on him taking his own medications and getting refills! Nate wouldn't dream of taken even an over the counter pill with out me getting it and handing it to him. Funny how we get so locked into one way of doing things then eventually it dawns on us ''hey they can do it themselves now!".

    Nate is very, very tired tonight. He didn't sleep good last night..allergies ..I forgot to give him his bendrile at bed time last night. :( Did he think to get some himself or even wake me up for some? no. One thing at a time I guess.

    Of course he also have tons of homework tonight too so we will see how much he gets done before he can't take it anymore and quits. I sure wish he had woken me up last night when he wasn't sleeping. Oh well we will muddle through as always.

    Nice to see you again Fran!
  16. TerriH

    TerriH Member

    I often do an evening 5 minute pickup, and the kids and I all work. It is amazing how much a person's mood lifts when the house is tidy, and because we all work they rarely complain.

    As a bonus, if they look like they are not certain what to do next I can suggest an item on the floor (as I am not as bendable as I once was).
  17. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    WHat has worked for us, is to make it clear that everything we asked the kids to do, was flatmate kind of stuff. We brought in house rules for everybody (including parents) so we all worked cooperatively. For example, whoever cooks doesn't wash up. Since I generally cook, someone else washes up. When the odler kids were home we had a roster for them. The kids could rearrange the roster for themselves if they wanted.

    Other rules are pretty much what you would get in any shared student household. For example, always let people know where you are going and when you'll be back. This is common courtesy. it also helps everyone to coordinate transport (so only one car does a trip instead of two, if two weren't needed) and we also had the option of saying, "While you're out buying your new shoes, can you pick up some milk and bread on the way home?"

    Washing - each person had to get their own laundry into the washing tub ready for washing day. I'll ask, "Does anyone have anything they haven't yet put into the laundry?" but generally I wash what's there for me to wash. Anything not where it should be, gets missed.

    I've also taught the kids how to use the washing machine. Same story - they have to be able to fend for themselves. Cooking - again, they need to learn how to cook. We begin with their favourites. I've put recipes down into a text file and I make sure the instructions are simple enough for the kids to follow. They get lessons in how to cook but I also modify the recipes as I go to make them easier.

    A really important thing I found - if you want your difficult child to do more chores, it works best if you ask them to work alongside you. You ask for their help and in turn, help them in another chore. Push the cooperative angle rather than the chore angle. Make it clear (especially if you're a single mum) that these things have to be done because there's nobody else to do them. Sometimes I've said to difficult child 3, "You feed and water the hens while I bring in the washing. We can each do our work and talk together if we want. And when the work is done maybe we'll have time for a game."

    The thing is - if you're constantly busy and always working, then you don't have time to play games with him. But if you can make it clear that having his help gives you more time FOR HIM, then he gts a really good, immediate payoff.

    Do it as equals, not as parent-child. Try to keep a "cooperative housemate" feel to how you work together. Ask him for ideas to make it more enjoyable. Make it clear (because our kids really don't understand even when we think they should) that you do not work so hard because you enjoy it. I remember difficult child 1 saying, when I had asked him to help cook, that it was not something he wanted to do and that he would rather I did it. I said, "I don't cook your meals because I like it, I cook your meals so you will have food."

    He really beleived that because I am female and because I'm a mother, that preparing meals for my family was the be-all and end-all of my life, and that if HE did something, eh would be depriving me of pleasure! I'm not kidding - he really believed it!

    I set him straight, fast.

    I'm not sure if it's available in the US yet, but we have an application for te Niintendo DS (Lite version too, as well as DSi, I believe) called the Cooking Guide. difficult child 3 has used it (so have I, if it comes to that). It's like an interactive recipe book, but it talks you through recipes as well as responds to voice commands, so you can still "turn the pages" even if your hands are covered in food ingredients. You can search for recipes with specific ingredients, you can adapt the recipe according to the number of serves needed, you can tick off what you already have and it will form a shopping list for you. It really is fabulous for teaching a kid, especially one who is hooked on electronics, how to cook. It also helps with all steps including the planning stages and the shopping for ingredients. We actually bought one for difficult child 1 as a wedding present. Oh yes, and you can bookmark favourite recipes as well as indicate ones with ingredients you want to avoid (ie if you don't like mushrooms it will warn you about a mushroom-containing recipe before you get too far into it). Very useful.

    But the main things - work towards independence. Keep everything with an air of cooperation and sharing. And whatever rules you make - be sure you also follow the same rules. In other words, You tell HIM when you're going out, where you're going and when you'll be back. Then these rules should become secod-nature for all people living in the same home.

    When he eventually grows up and leaves home, you want him to be a popular and welcomed house guest and not someone who wears out his welcome and has to move back home with you (just as you're enjoying your new freedom).

    Oh yes, and teach him to sew, mend his clothes, sew on a button, that sort of thing. Again, needed.

  18. moonglow

    moonglow New Member

    Yea, I am not always very bendable I am also not really good about getting up on the floor very easily

    Good idea..thanks. :)

    Thanks for the ideas. Hadn't thought about sewing at all. I can barely sew anything myself actually...:( Nate did learn to use a sewing machine at school in home encomics..he seemed to enjoy that though we don't have a sewing machine at home. Not exactly something I would even want to

    I think they sell those cooking programs for DS now..its like a game boy but more advanced. Don't think I would have the money to buy it though and my cooking is pretty simply stuff and doesn't need recipes. Anything in a box usually had the recipes on it already like cooking rice. But mostly I cook fresh meat, vegetable, potatoes.

    You know I will have to think about this ...I learned to cook through my mom just going through the steps with me and all us girls just memorized how to cook certain meals. Never looked at any recipes...but that might be something Nate may need. Maybe I should write the steps out for him instead of just expecting him to learn like I did. Hadn't thought of that. Of course I would never ever just turn him loose in the kitchen. He makes me a nervous wreck when he is helping me or trying to cook something at it is. So of course I am right next to him!! I am just scared to death he will get badly burned..:( It would help if he wasn't so hyper and his movements were slower and calmer in the kitchen..but like I said, he is like a bull in a china cabinet at times. He thinks he can stirs things in boiling water or frying in a skillet without holding onto the handle and he isn't gentle about it so the pot or skillet starts sliding around...very scary to me! So its not very often I let him help with cooking because of this. It would just kill me if he got badly burned and ended up in the hospital.

    Maybe we should start out with less dangerous things for him to do. He is just 13 so has plenty of time to learn to cook.

  19. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Cory has been cooking for years and he is not the most graceful He started with soups and pancakes and baked things. He moved on to things he watched us cook. Now he can make really good meals.

    Like Fran said it is all about teaching independence. Cory was my most independent kid. He can cook better than all of them.
  20. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Julie, at 13 there are a lot of things he can do, and should be doing, both in cooking and in sewing. I'm a firm believer in boys learning the same skills as girls; husband grew up in a home where both parents worked full-time, so both he and his younger sister would come home to an empty house (aunt & uncle next door though) and have a list of things to do, to make sure dinner was cooked on time. Most of the time all they had to do was put the roast in the oven and turn the oven on.

    Things your son can learn now -

    1) How to sew a button back on.

    2) How to carefully hand-stitch the edge of a stretched buttonhole to make it smaller so the button won't keep coming undone.

    3) How to darn or patch clothing; how to repair a split seam or fallen hem. These are even easier with a sewing machine but can be done by hand. With sewing machine, sew on patches or repair tears or holes using three-step zigzag, if the machine has it. It's brilliant for hiding the repair and so easy to do.

    4) Cooking - making a salad sandwich.

    5) Cooking again - putting a roast on to cook. I've got a healthy roast dinner technique (there are many of them) which a kid can at least do part of. Here goes:

    Healthy roasts.

    A) You need two roasting pans. First one with a rack. Put your lump of meat (seasoned to your preference) on the rack. Put some water under the rack but not enough to touch the meat. You may need to permenently bend the rack so it curves down, like rounded shoulders. That way when you put t he weight of meat onto it, it won't sg into the water.
    Put that pan into the oven. You can put it into a cold oven and then turn the oven on, if you're worried your son will burn himself. A moderate oven for most roasts - pork with crackling is the exception.
    Vegetables - cut your choice of peeled vegetables into pieces two bites big. Either spray them with oil or put the pieces into a disposable shopping bag or freezer bag, pour in a few tablespoons of oil, moosh the bag around a bit to make sure each piece is coated in oil, then tip the bag out into another clean, dry (preferably non-stick) baking dish. Make sure you available have utensils for use in non-stick pan or it won't stay non-stick for long! Slide this dish into the oven on the top shelf (the roast should be lower down). Halfway through the cooking, use a non-stick spatula to gently turn the vegetables. Don't be rough or you will be serving bubble n' squeak instead of pieces of roast veg. Still tastes great, just looks messy.
    At the end of cooking time when the roast is done, remove it form the oven to a carving dish and let it rest for about 15 mins. Pour off the liquid underneath (you need to keep the liquid topped up a bit so the pan doesn't dry out during cooking). I pour this liquid into a glass jug. Let it stand so any fat comes to the top. Pour all the fat into a sacepan, being careful to pour only the fat. Pour off nay excess fat into the grbage, keeping only a couple of tablespoonsul in the saucepan. Now to make the gravy, put a tablespoonful of flour into the fat and mix it together over heat until the mix begis to brown a little. It's OK for this to be a very dry, crumbly mix - it's the low-fat gravy. Now add the rest of the liquid, about half to begin with (until you're sure of quantities). Mix it thoroughly off the heat until it's smooth - I often use a stick blender. Putit back on the heat until it thickens and simmers. Thin to the right consistency with the rest of the liquid or just plain water if you've run out of cooking liquid. Add salt to taste. Chances are it will be the best gravy you've had in years.
    If there is no cooking liquid, then while the baking dish is hot and after the roasting rack has been removed, add some liquid and deglaze the pan, then use that liquid to make your gravy. If there simply isn't any fat to begin the gravy, you can cheat and use a few drops of oil or butter.

    Making gravy is perhaps a bit advanced for your son at the moment. But preparing the vegetables and the roast is not. And if he likes to eat the end result, that is the positive natural consequence. You can have it all prepared well ahead of time and all he has to do is put the various baking dishes in at the time you say. Have good oven mitts available in the house and he should be quite safe.

    B) "here's the one we prepared earlier" roast - you get your roast (a favourite is the flattenedd chicken, you cut out the backbone and flatten the chicken out. Keep the backbone in the freezer to make stock with when you have collected a few). Put the chicken in a zip-lok bag with a squirt of oil, the juice of a lemon (and hey, just toss in the juiced lemon halves too), some crushed garlic, a quartered peeled onion and a few sprigs of herbs. Leave it in the fridge all day then when you get home form work you turn the oven on about an hour before you want dinner. While the oven is heating, do the vegetables (if you haven't already done them and hve them also in the fridge in a bag). Empty chicken bag into baking dish (forget the rack) or onto a barbecue grill. Because it's flattened it will cook faster. meanwhile cook the vegetables - there may not be time to roast them, but steamed is quick and easy.
    To test if the chicken is done, shove a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh and see if the juices run clear.

    Any leftover roast meat makes great sandwiches or can be reheated for a second roast dinner the next night. I also have recipes that use leftover roast meat - they certainly don't taste like reheats! Sometimes I have to cook extra of the main meal just so we can cook the leftover dishes!

    Crock pot meals are also great for kids to learn. If you learned by watching and helping your mother, then he could learn the same way. But if you feel he needs it written down, then try writing down your methods. Some things he needs to see, such as the correct consistency for a roux, for example (can't describe that). PLus there are some new recipes these days - I've recently been playing with Moroccan spiced lamb recipes. And various curries, including making my own curry powder from the spices. He could do that too. Learning to use his nose and his tongue is vital NOW if he is to learn to be a cook and enjoy it. If you want him to be a success in life, being able to cook for the woman in his future will give him a better chance to attract a good partner.

    These days cooking is so much easier. Cooking over a campfire is a good way to teach cooking safety as well as some early simple recipes.

    My mother had me helping get dinner for everyone when I was very young. There were times I had to stand in for her because she was in hospital, I had to have dinner on for everyone (ten of us at one point) and I was not yet ten years old. I also had to cook breakfast for my father and get the timing exactly right. She taught me how - when we heard his electric shaver start up, we put the eggs on to cook (10 minutes to boil the eggs from cold water on the stove). When the water comes to the boil, put the toast on and turn off the hot plate under the eggs. When the 10 minute timer goes, take the eggs out of the water and serve them into the egg cups. By now the toast should be done and buttered. Then put the plate on the table. Usually that was exactly the moment my father was walking in to the room to sit down for his breakfast. The eggs would be done exactly how he wanted them - firm white, soft yolk. It was like living with Phineas Fogg.

    These days I still cook eggs the same way but I now cook rice in the microwave oven. No mess, no need to drain it. Perfect rice, no need for expensive rice cookers.

    Once you know how to cook, you can learn how to adapt and modify. A beginner cook rarely modifies, but as a cook gets confidence you get a 'feel' for it. As kids reach their teen years, their own sense of discovery should have them at the stage of wanting to modify. I have a muffin recipe your son might like to play with. It involves the basics - a dry mix bowl and a wet mix bowl. You can play with the ingredients list as long as you have the right quantities - a certain amount of liquid (it can be juice of any kind, or milk) and a certain amount of chopped solid stuff (it can be dried fruit, fresh fruit, chocolate chips or any combination of the same) as well as the usual balance of eggs, flour & butter. As a result, depending on what is in the fridge or pantry, an inventive kid can produce wonders. I've done choc-cherry-coconut muffins, orange and date muffins and even savoury bacon and cheese muffins (with grated zucchini for the green eggs & ham look). You may have your own muffin recipe that works like this. It can be a lot of fun. Or there's Impossible Pie (not very healthy, but very tasty). Again, you add what you want from a range of possible ingredients. Every time you make it, it's different.

    The Nintendo DS cooking guide was something we bought for difficult child 3 as a family. Usually he has to buy his own games (or beg them for Christmas & birthdays). The Cooking Guide doesn't really allow for much adaptation but if you are experienced or practiced, you can adapt from it. It's a bit like a GPS for cooking. Once you know where you are going you can turn off the main road and take a short-cut, as long as you can ignore the increasingly hysterical-sounding, "Make a U-turn NOW!" coming from the machine...

    We have all learned some new recipes from the Cooking Guide. I find it a bit simplistic at times and have taken a few of their recipes and added my own home-grown herbs to them, or added other ingredients to make the recipes even tastier. But for difficult child 3 - it's been a brilliant way to get him into the kitchen. It also is good for helping him to see the extended process - you don't just assume you have all the ingredients or utensils, you have to plan first and maybe even do some shopping. It helps there, too. Extra tips are given where needed under "more information", such as how to peel and chop an onion. Pictures are used as well as short movies, so the learner can see and hear what it's like to brown onions, for example.

    The thing is - we want our kids to be able to live indpendently. There are so many little skills that they need and it's never too early to learn.

    Example - difficult child 3 was about 5 years old and we were having lunch in the garden. He wanted more red capsicum and I told him that it was insidde on the chopping board, to just go and get it. he did - but tried to cut it himself (I had wanted the whole thing brought out; difficult child 3 thought he would be clever and surprise me). And he cut himself quite badly, we had to call the doctor to come glue him back together. Blood pouring everywhere. So at 5 years old, we had to teach difficult child 3 (whose language skills were very poor) how to be safe around sharp knives.

    Converse example - a friend of ours has a very bright young daughter. Classic easy child. But te kid never is allowed to cook anything for fer she will burn herself on a hot plate or using the oven. As a result she is now 11 and is still not permitted in the kitchen when any appliance other than the microwave oven is running. Crazy. But her grandma has been teaching her to cook behind her mother's back. That should not have happened, but the kid desperately wanted to learn how to make muffins and biscuits.

    I remember the first time I burned myself. I was only a toddler and put my hand on the fins of the radiator on my father's lawnmower. It wasn't a bad burn, it didn't blister right away. But it taught me to recognise the feel of heat and the danger of hot things. My mother had me helping her to cook from a very early age. She showed me how saucepan handles had to be turned inwards for safety, even though the person being kept safe would be me and I knew better already, than to grab a saucepan handle. I don't know how old I was but I do remember being only at about eye level with the edge of the stove. I had to use steps to climb up and turn on the hot plates. I learned to put the saucepan with the vegetables and water, onto a cold stove, then turn them on at the correct time, then stay and pay atttention in case they began to boil over. Some people would say I was too young, but it was accepted in tose days. PPLus my mother had no choice, she was often in hospital and I was the first one home ahead of everyone else, it was my job to begin getting dinner and looking after the animals (goats, sheep, chickens). I never remember burning myself, I think because I already knew what a burn felt like and had been drilled in safety. I do remember a couple of steam burns as I had to reach over the top of the pots to turn down the hot plates. I learned to slide the pot out of the way after that. In the earliest days I just had to get the vegetables ready and have them on the stove. When my sister got home from work she would turn everything on and put the meat on to cook. When I was older, I would turn it all on as well.

    We do what we have to do. I think it is better fror a kid to learn to cook because they're enjoying it, than because thye have to. But eventually they will have to. Better to begin having fun now.

    Last edited: Oct 30, 2009