5 Ways to Encourage Independence in Kids
“He can’t do that! He’s too little!”
Encouraging independence in kids is an important part of molding a self-sufficient child. When we hover over our children and inhibit their learning and growth processes, we keep them from developing into an independent thinker and worker.
One day our kids will grow up and have to make decisions without us holding their hand. One day they will wake up and have to cook every single meal they eat. One day they will have to wash and iron their own clothes. One day they will have to make difficult and personal decisions Why not prepare them NOW for those future responsibilities? Wouldn’t that make grown-up life a little bit easier?
Raising a child that is confident in skills he needs in order to change a tire, balance a budget or care for a baby, will erase fears of the unknown as well as help banish a complete dependency upon parents or siblings.
Isn’t it sad to see little girls that grow up and still depend so heavily on their mom? I have heard of women who depend on their moms to bail them out financially, care for their kids five days a week and cook meals for them on a regular basis. Sure, most moms do this to be kind once in awhile, but when a girl grows up and is still dependent on her mom to get necessary tasks accomplished, it’s unhealthy. As a parent, I desire to equip my kids with independence and life-skills to enable them to have a more stable future. But, then the question comes up:
How can I prepare them?
Here are some small steps you can take to prepare your kids for an independent future. When they are adults, they will thank-you!
- Teach life-skills now. Even infants can be encouraged to think and act independently. When my babies were small, I would lay them on their tummy and place a toy just out of their reach. Soon enough, the baby would figure out that he had to use his arm and leg muscles to move his body a little closer and grab that toy. It was sweet and victorious to see him finally reach out and grasp it — all by himself! As my babies turned into toddlers and preschoolers, I would ask them to wipe off the kitchen table, empty small trash cans, pick up toys and any jobs that small hands could do. They loved it! They enjoyed feeling needed and also gained an “I can do it!” spirit around the house. It has been so fun watching all my kids grow and learn new skills! Right now, my daughters are learning to cook. I write down a recipe and make sure I am close by for any questions. They have baked homemade bread, muffins, cakes and cookies in this process. My son is not being left out of this learning process! He has learned how to chop fresh veggies and fruits. He has also learned how to tie hundreds of different types of knots that come in handy more than you would think!
- Set goals. Don’t just let your kids float through life. Set age-appropriate goals for them in specific areas of their life. It could be Bible verse memorization, sewing skills, carpentry skills, computer skills — the list is endless! Whatever spark’s their interest and is profitable for their future, encourage and reward them for goals met. Always press onward and desire to improve talents and skills!
- Teach and re-teach. It’s so tempting to re-fold that shirt your daughter left a little lumpy. But, instead grab a different shirt, and show her how to fold it correctly — again and again. Let her re-fold that shirt and try again. Stepping in and re-doing your child’s less-than-perfect work will not only discourage them but stifle the learning process. Same thing with cooking. It’s so easy to shoo your kids out of the kitchen, but there is so much to learn! Yes, it is quicker without the munchkins around, but let them crack a few eggs and sift the flour. They are learning so many skills that will help them become more independent in their character!
- Let go of perfection. Sure your sink is shinier when you clean it, but don’t let that prohibit your kids from gaining independence. Accept that you are in the parenting stage of life, and your home will not look like a magazine. Yes, it is clean, but your compulsive or over-perfection habits need to stop. Enjoy the imperfection of your kids while enjoying the progress they are making. One day you will be amazed at how clean and perfectly they do accomplish tasks! Want to know a secret? My girls can now fold clothes better than me! It was something they wanted to succeed in. They paid close attention, and with a lot of practice are now the meanest laundry-folders in town!
- Praise accomplishments. When your child does learn something new, don’t overlook it. Praise him for the Christmas song he learned on the trumpet. Praise your daughter for the five page essay she wrote on families. Praising a child will only deepen their desire to become more independent and successful.
How have you encouraged your kids to become more independent? What life-skills are they learning now? We would love to hear about it in the comments section!