During infancy, children are completely dependent on their caregivers. Parents spend each moment trying to figure out what their child wants. Are they hungry? Do they need a nap? Is it time to change their diaper? The list goes on and on. As this phase ends and children transition to the toddler years, they begin to assert their independence by wielding the ever powerful ‘NO’ and will often meet your attempts to help them with a proud ‘I do it.’
Adjusting to your child’s desire for independence can be hard. However, it is necessary in order for them to grow and mature. After all, the last thing you want is to have your child turn into an adult who is still totally dependent on you to meet their needs. Teaching your child how to be independent is a valuable life skill that they will benefit from throughout their lives.
Here are some practical things you can do in order to raise responsible and independent children.
Show children you are confident in their ability to do things independently. If you know your child can complete a task on their own, allow them to do it. Even if you believe they can’t do something, don’t be afraid to at least have them attempt to do it. When you do everything for your child, you send the message that you believe they are incapable of doing things independently. This can wreak havoc on their self-esteem and self-confidence.
Model independence for children. Children are great at mimicking what they see. Let them see you doing things on your own, making your own decisions, and expressing your opinions with confidence. They will pick up on what being independent ‘looks’ like by watching how you carry yourself. On the flip side, if your child sees you interacting with others in a co-dependent manner, don’t be surprised if they start displaying your co-dependent tendencies. They might start believing they need other people to do things for them and not trust that they are capable of doing things independently.
Teach children age-appropriate responsibilities. Giving children responsibilities helps them learn how to do things by themselves. It also helps them become more confident about what they are capable of doing. Some examples of responsibilities you can give children includes them maintaining their personal hygiene, taking out the trash, doing their laundry, cleaning their rooms, etc. It’s important that you keep your child’s age and capabilities in mind as you teach them new skills. You want them to have the best chance of experiencing success so as to build their confidence.
Encourage children to step out of their comfort zone. Learning new skills can be scary for children, especially if they are used to others doing everything for them. They might avoid learning how to do something on their own because they are afraid they will make a mistake and embarrass themselves. You can encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone by praising them for any effort they make towards learning a new skill, even if they don’t master it the first time around.
Teach children to take responsibility for their actions. Being able to take responsibility for your actions is an important part of being independent and responsible. Help your child to understand that making mistakes is a part of life and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s crucial that children understand that no one is perfect and it is alright to fail. Failure gives them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and find alternate ways to master a new skill or task.
Gradually allow children to become more independent. Although many children crave independence, if you cut the strings too soon it can be scary and overwhelming for them. It’s important that you don’t give your child more responsibility than they are ready to take on. Things could backfire and your child might resist attempts to make them more independent by becoming increasingly defiant and oppositional. Give them a chance to practice and get comfortable with completing a task on their own.
Want more tips and ideas for how to raise responsible and independent children? Stay tuned for Kiddie Matters E-Book, Life Skills:Preparing Children For Success.
In the meantime, how do you ensure that you are raising responsible and independent children?