Yes, like the Fourth of July we can break out the fireworks and celebrate independence when our child learns simple tasks. That in turn takes those tasks off our “to do” list! Often times we may miss this celebration because we fail to see that small growing pains now, mean bigger mommy free time rewards later. Teaching kids independence may initially take more work but independence of a child supports the whole family.
As parents, our job is to prepare our kids for the “real world” and teach them how to be independent. These lessons start when they’re very young and continue until they finally leave home. All the while your kids are gaining more and more independence. There are a few necessary lessons every child should learn at a young age to start to become more independent. And once they learn them, they’ll be able to help you out as well! Here are several ways to encourage independence in children.
Teaching Kids Independence May Initially Take More Work But It Pays Off
If you have been in the position of doing a task for your child because they cry and throw a fit leading you to just quickly do things for them in order to move on, you need to read this excerpt from Kristi Pelzel’s book: “Kid-ganize! – Teaching Kids To Be Organized”. It illustrates really well that the easiest path isn’t always best. Don’t just do things for your children instead of encouraging kids and allowing kids to be independent.
(Excerpt reprinted with permission. )
When Stephen was 4 years old he received his first pair of kids designer shoes with laces. He had learned to tie them on his own the week before his mom had to go out of town. The day she returned, she walked in the front door to see Stephen sitting on the stairs diligently trying to tie his shoe.
After saying hello, Stephen told his mother that he couldn’t do it.
His mom started to reach down to do it for him when his father walked down the stairs and stopped her. “He can do it!” he exclaimed.
Stephen started crying. Looking to his mother, he again told her he couldn’t do it. Before his mom could get too upset with her husband he said, “If Stephen wants to go to the park and play he can tie his shoes.”
About twenty seconds later Stephen had tied his shoes and was jumping into his dad’s truck. Mom was amazed at Stephen’s hidden skills that magically surfaced with the right motivation.
Dad was building Stephen’s independent foundation and mom hadn’t given Stephen enough credit for his abilities.
Think About It
Are we holding our kids back by trying to do everything for them?
How important is it to transfer skills, like getting organized, that lead to independence?
Do we let them out of the task if they whine or cry?
If children can do a task when given the right reinforcement and motivation (playing at the park with dad), can they do more using the same methods?
How To Teach Child Independence- Ways Of Encouraging Independence
It is one thing to abstractly say teaching kids independence is important. It is another to provide activities which will teach children to be independent. These activity ideas are great ways to teach children skills that will provide them with independence, empower them, and be great life lessons all at the same time.
Letting your children grow up does not mean that you’re one step closer to losing them forever. In fact, if you raise them in a loving, supportive environment, they will likely always want to come home to spend time and visit with you even when they have a family of their own. Growing up is not a bad thing, and you should allow your children to have the freedom they need to become their own person. Encouraging kids to excel in new hobbies and loosening the reigns just a bit while adding responsibility are great ways to help your children grow up.
Everyone needs to contribute around the house and kids are no exception. Helping out around the house will teach them how to care for their own things and it will prepare them for their future job. Assign each child a short list of age-appropriate chores like setting and clearing the table, watering the plants, picking up their toys, and running the vacuum. Teach them to pitch in when someone else needs a helping hand, like when a sibling has a big school project they need to work on.
Your kids may not be ready to take on all the laundry just yet, but get them started with simple tasks like sorting clothes and folding the clean laundry. When they’ve mastered those skills, you can move on to washing with a little supervision until they get it right. Create a chart for your laundry room to show them what cycle and temperature they need for each type of load. If you have a top-load machine, you may need to keep a step stool nearby. Once you feel confident that they know what to do, give them space and let them do it themselves.
Order at a Restaurant
Kids can be shy and sometimes have trouble communicating with a stranger, but they need to learn. Polite communication is part of everyday life and, if they plan to eat out when they grow up, they need to learn to communicate politely and respectful to a restaurant server. Remind them to look the server in the eye and remember to say, “please” and “thank you” and use table manners. If they have a special request, tell them they need to let the server know. Having the confidence to speak up for themselves is a skill they will always need.
Cooking Teaches Independence
Your kids may not be ready to use knives or turn on the stove yet, but there are plenty of other kitchen skills they can learn with your help. Show them how to put together their favorite after-school snack, make a sandwich, or mix ingredients for a cake. Cooking with kids is a great way to introduce them to basic cooking skills. There are plenty of great cookbooks geared towards kids, get one and let them choose a recipe they’d like to try. Teaching them to bake can also be educational. Using measuring cups and spoons teach math skills and how to properly measure for a recipe. The more they can do on their own, the more confident they will become.
Let Your Child Learn a New Instrument, Hobby, or Sport
Learning a new instrument or a new hobby gives kids a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. In a world focused around technology, children today often neglect to learn things outside of that realm. Encouraging a musical ability will help them grow both as a musician and as a person. It will give them basic skills that they will carry with them long after they quit playing the instrument. Don’t let the rock star syndrome deter you from encouraging your child to play music. As they are starting to learn violin, or starting to work hard at a new sport, you will see a new found passion and determination unlike anything before.
Give Kids More Responsibility
They say with great power comes great responsibility. As you give your children more freedom, they need to understand that freedom has always come at a price. Giving kids more things to do around the house and more financial responsibility will help them gain a better perspective on growing up. From keeping their own room clean, to helping with the recycling and cleaning, they need to learn to carry their own weight. Don’t forget to tell them how proud you are when they do their new chores!
Raise Your Child’s Allowance
Another way to help your kids grow up a bit is by raising their allowance. Giving them a greater sense of freedom will go a long way in helping them grow up. This is a great way to reward them for new responsibilities you give the kids. Raising their allowance by even a few dollars will show the kids just how much you appreciate what they’re doing. They will feel your support behind them, and that will encourage even more growth. You may want to help your child open a savings account as well.
Teach Your Children to Solve Their Own Problems
If you’re used to solving your children’s problems, it’s time to stop and let them think about how to solve their own problems. When your kids come running to you with an issue, stop yourself from giving them a solution. Instead, ask your kids how they would solve it if you weren’t there. If they don’t answer right away, don’t give up; give them small hints on how they can solve the problem, or ask them more specific questions to help them reach a solution. Learning to interact with others is also an important part of developing social skills.
Give Your Kids Some Alone Time
Giving your children alone time to explore their interests is beneficial. It is great for them to be able to get really into their own hobbies. Alone time is essential for your children to be less dependent and comfortable by themselves. The amount of alone time can vary by age from 15 minutes of playing without you checking on them to a couple of hours alone in the house when they are over 12. Alone time is something you should not rush but consider offering it if both you and the child are comfortable with it and it is safe to do so.
Children need to know that they have the freedom and support from you as they enter into the formable years of their life. They will feel confused about who they are and their purpose in life, so they should never feel confused about the love and respect you have for them. Truly showing your love, support and acceptance starts with encouraging them in new things and giving them the freedom to grow in it. Whether is looking into learning a new instrument or extending their curfew, showing your support is important.
When it comes to teaching your kids to be independent, these lessons will take them far. Are you working on teaching kids independence? What are your best tips?
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It’s funny, my son is exactly like Stephen, while my daughter is little miss independent who never wants you to help her with anything, even if she’s taking 5 minutes to put on a single shoe.
Mary Brice says
Kids need your aspiration to learn new things. My 6 years old son want some freedom in life to live his own life. We must give them permission to live their lives as they want.
Dorian Lord says
I am so grateful for this post. I recently heard that some generations don’t know how to use a can opener. This is a much-needed article!