My goal is to raise independent kids.
However, independent kids don’t develop on their own. Instead, parents must put a lot of effort into teaching their children all the building blocks of life skills, and then sitting back patiently for approximately an eternity until they apply those life skills. Developing independence needs to start early in life. If you wait to teach your children how to take care of themselves until they graduate high school, then they won’t be able to confidently live on their own. I once listened to a talk by parenting coach Vicki Hoefle that really resonated with me. Basically, our job as parents is to equip our children to live on their own by the time they are adults. Parents won’t always be around to help their children, so children need to be able to take care of themselves.
Chores are an easy place to start.
Even young children are capable of simple chores. You just need to show them how to do it. There have been so many moments when I catch myself doing something for my children that they could easily do themselves. For example, I had been taking my children’s empty plates to the kitchen after meals. Why was I doing all this work?! I showed the kids how to put their empty plates in the kitchen and made it their responsibility. They are developing good habits of cleaning up after themselves and I have less work thrust upon my shoulders. It’s a win-win situation!
Find out what your children are expected to do independently at school.
When my children attended preschool, they were expected to put on their own coats. I didn’t expect that with my first child, so he struggled with that skill for a while. With my younger child, I already knew the expectation, so we started practicing coat skills at an earlier age. Also, a lot of children are capable of more than their parents know. For example, a child may open his own lunch foods at school because that is the expectation, while at home he just lets his parents keep doing it for him. When you find out what your children are doing at school on their own, let them be independent kids at home, too!
Listen to what your kids want to do.
This year, my third-grade son wanted to ride his bike to school. This scared me! He only learned how to ride a bike without training wheels last spring. Also, I have a vivid imagination and can anticipate all sorts of mishaps on his journey. My son was insistent, though. When I saw some of his classmates walking or biking to school on their own, I stopped and reevaluated my own thoughts about the situation.
First, my son had been walking the same route to school with me since kindergarten. I have always made it a point to train him how to be a responsible walker by stopping at corners and making sure that cars will stop before crossing the street. Also, I have pointed out the places where bushes or trees make it harder for drivers to see. Furthermore, there are four crossing guards on the route at the busiest intersections. Finally, my son had practiced biking to the park in the summer while I walked behind and supervised him. Since I believed my son had all the skills to stay safe, I let him bike to school with his classmate and they did fine.
Realize that doing everything for your children isn’t doing them any favors.
I like doing things for my children. I want them to have a happy life, after all. It’s easy to let them go play while I clean up after them. However, it’s not going to help them in the end. Kids won’t develop life skills if they never have to do anything at home. Give your children age-appropriate responsibilities. Also, let them suffer natural consequences at times. For example, if my kids don’t get their dirty clothes into the hamper, I don’t wash them. It’s a small consequence that won’t hurt them, but I hope that it will teach them about responsibility now before they grow up and the consequences are more serious.
Independent kids are amazing!
As a mother, I am so proud when my children learn how to do things for themselves. They are capable of so many things! However, sometimes it’s hard to see them growing up so fast. I liked feeling needed when they were younger. It’s easy to feel like independent kids don’t need their parents anymore, but it’s not true. They still lean on our wisdom, advice, and encouragement. We never outgrow our parents!
How do you encourage your children to grow their independence?