Training our children to be independent is critical. And it starts when they are very little!

We had a bird's nest by our house and our four sons watched with interest as the birdies hatched. They noticed how the mommy and daddy birds fed the little ones and then began to teach them to fly. They spent hour after hour teaching the little birdies who would hop along our fence and then take short little flights trying to get the hang of flying. They would then teach the babies how to find food.

After a time, the birdies all flew away. My children were sad but they knew that the little birdies had learned all they needed to learn to become grown-up birds.

The same applies in our families. We start teaching and training our children so that one day they can be independent grown ups living their own lives.

The earlier we start training our children, the better and easier it will be. Before a child is three, they do lots and lots of observation and imitation. They've been watching you sweep the floor, wash the car, and cook dinner. And they love to play "mommy" and "daddy" and imitate what you do.

What can three-year-olds do?

At three years old, a child is ready to begin training in earnest. Here are some life-skills that a 3-year-old can learn.

Dress self

They can pick out their clothes and put them on. Don't get upset if things don't match perfectly. They're learning!

Toilet training

Hopefully this can be done by the time they turn four. It's a big step!

Brushing own teeth

Get them a new toothbrush and let them start brushing their teeth while you watch. Teach them to brush in circles, up and down, in the back, and brush their tongue.

Pick up toys

They are old enough to pick up most of their toys. Twice a day, at least, have them pick up all their toys and put them away. If they can't do this, they have too many toys! Donate some!

Say prayers

They can begin learning to talk to God. This is a precious time to teach them they are loved. If you are not religious, teach them to say "thank-you's" every day. It's a beautiful way to end the day.

Remember that you are training and teaching the child. Give them lots of time to learn. And emphasize that you get to practice a lot. Once your child can do these things, stop doing them for them! You want them to be independent so let them.

This can be a wonderful and positive experience with your child. They are growing up! Three years old is a great time to start!

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