We live in a world where anything can happen at any moment. It’s human instinct to always want to protect our children from anything, but are we doing too much? There are many ways your child can be independent and safe. Raising an independent child leads to less stress on parents and creating a confident and engaged adolescent. Yet many parents do not know how to make their child independent.
So, the underlying question is presented: How can we instill independence in children? These seven steps explain the major points in raising independent children.
Stop Doing Everything
I know parents want to make sure everything is done, and done right. There are too many things to do in a day to waste time redoing a simple task. Yet, when parents do every little activity for their child it will be more stressful on the parent. Also, this will be more hurtful for the child if they feel you think they still need to be babied. The first step in trying to change any situation is evaluating what exactly needs to change. To raise independent children you must give them a chance to be independent.
Set New Expectations
Of course you should not ask your 4-year-old to do the grocery shopping for the week, but there are tasks that they can do on their own. So what can your child do? Can they dress themselves? Can they brush their teeth and wash their face? Can they brush their hair? Can they put on their socks, shoes, and coat? Can they pack their bag for school? Can they clean their room? Can they clean their plate? If not, should they be able to? How can you help them? Instead of simply doing all of these things for them, show them how to do it and it will be one less thing for you as a parent to worry about. If your child expects that mom and dad are just going to do things for them, they will find no motivation to work for themselves. Even worse, the child who isn’t allowed to do anything for themselves will feel like their parent has little faith in his or her abilities to do anything on their own and that they have somehow disappointed their parents.
Make it Easy to Succeed
As previously stated, you don’t want to give your child impossibly hard tasks. However giving them small, doable responsibilities makes a great difference in the confidence and independence. If they can dress themselves or pack their own lunch or back pack, you must let them. Once they’ve completed a task on their own, tell them how proud you are that they are growing and doing thing for themselves.
Create a Routine
Mornings can be extremely hectic. This is the time of day that it is most tempting to do things for your children instead of letting them do it on their own. It will probably take less time if you do it for them but it will do your child no good if they never learn how to get themselves ready. Instead, set out a routine for them to follow with reasonable time given to complete their morning tasks. If it takes your child 10 minutes to get dressed on their own but you can dress them in 2 minutes, plan the morning to either get started earlier or do some tasks the night before. This way they will still be growing more independent, but will not throw the entire morning off schedule. Also, set out regular house chores and personal chores they need to do. These chores can be cleaning their room, putting away their laundry, or bringing down the trash cans. Have them do these things on a regular basis. Building a routine for them will help keep your children accountable to their own responsibilities and tasks.
Teach Problem Solving Skills
Here is where a lot of parents struggle. Their good intentions and parental instincts for fixing every problem can actually be harmful to raising an independent child. Often siblings argue and when parents play referee every time, the siblings never learn to settle disputes amongst themselves. The same is true for classmates and friends. Yet, children face many different problems, such as not completing their homework on time, spending all of their allowance in one day, staying up too late the night before a big game, and many others. Some great problem solving skills for children include:
- Identify the problem
- Develop more than one solution
- List the pros and cons of each solution
- Test out one solution
If the solution worked, then they have learned how to solve that problem. If the solution does not work, they must try another solution until they find a satisfactory result.
Suggest, Don’t Intervene
This goes hand-in-hand with teaching problem solving skills. At first your child will be a bit lost in their problem solving skills but you must be cautious and not solve the problem for them. You can guide them and present different options then ask what they think would be best. Let them take their time in coming to a conclusion. They will be overjoyed when they piece together a solution to their problem by themselves.
Present Reasonable Choices
Lastly, allowing your child to choice his or her activity is a big step in raising and independent child. For instance, does he want to practice his karate or do his homework first? Does she want to finish the project for art class or start the history paper first? Do they want spaghetti or burgers for dinner? Letting them have a voice and a choice in their lives greatly increases your child’s confidence. Not only that, but when you let them choose what activity they would like to do it lets your child know that you believe they are responsible and mature enough to make their own decisions. It is of course important to keep boundaries. This is why you must present reasonable Yes, they can choose if they want to do their homework or their chores first, but both must be done and those are the options they have to choose from, not video game time or playtime.
Raising independent children is not an easy task. There is the pressure to make sure everything is done correct and on time. The thoughts we can’t be late to school again, I’ll just do everything myself, and, she wants to dress herself today but we don’t have the time, or, he’s not going to be able to do this on his own are very real and often times they stand in the way of raising a healthy, independent child. It takes time, practice, and patience but the emotional and mental pay-offs are worth it. Families grow stronger and grow closer as children are raised to be independent. Parents are proud and excited to have more help around the house, and children are thrilled at how grown up and appreciated they feel.