Children are naturally curious, with an innate urge to know more about the world. From early ages, kids express their desires to do things, which gives them a sense of accomplishment. This early search for independence can be encouraged by loving and supporting them, teaching and showing, and allowing your children to act on their own and keep trying until they succeed.
1. Don’t Do It for Them
The biggest mistake made by most parents is to take over and do things for your kids. While it’s faster and less painful, it stops them from developing essential skills. From their toddler years, your kids will insist on doing things themselves, like putting on shoes or brushing their teeth. It might take five times as long, but let kids do these things while you supervise. Model the correct way and help them if they get frustrated. Now and then, you may need to take over in order to get somewhere on time.
2. Give Them Credit
Don’t hover over your kids or criticize them as they make a mistake. Show your faith in their abilities and encourage their efforts, especially as they progress. Praise their accomplishments, whether it’s finding two matching socks or washing a sink full of dirty dishes. You can also express gratitude, with more enthusiasm for toddlers and perhaps a little less for teenagers. These actions help your kids gain confidence in their abilities.
3. Teach Them Decision-making Skills
From making breakfast to considering the adoption of a family pet, include your kids in the decision making process. Give them a choice between two things and respect it, even if it isn’t what you’d select. You will make them see their decisions matter and eventually, as they grow older, they will be able to bring important life decisions with ease and confidence.
4. Engage Them in Age-appropriate Assignments
Setting age-appropriate expectations makes things easier on you and your kids. As they show enthusiasm about a task, let them try it. Both of you will be able to see whether they can do it or not. Selecting developmentally appropriate activities helps kids to feel proud and accomplished, while inappropriate tasks might lead to frustration and discourage them from trying new things in the future.
5. Help Them Establish Basic Routines
When set at the right time, good habits can last a lifetime. Morning routines should start as early as possible. While you might need to help your toddlers go through their morning tasks, preschoolers should be able to do things like getting dressed or brushing their teeth without help.
6. Let Them Do the Household Chores
Kids are never too young to start doing household chores. Your toddlers can help you put their dirty spoon and fork in the sink and put their toys back into the storage bins. Preschoolers can help with loading clothes into the dryer and matching up clean socks.
As your kids get older, they can do more complex chores like cleaning the bathtub or making their beds. Adding specific chores to your child’s routines helps take things off your load and increases your child’s independence. It can also be a great opportunity to teach them about the value of money. Agree to give them an allowance after they complete a certain task. That way they will get a glimpse of how much effort and time it takes to earn money.
7. Have Them Help You in the Kitchen
Chances are good that your toddler will be more than willing to follow you into the kitchen and be at your side during meal preparation. You can begin by giving them a mixing bowl and spoon to let them pretend cook. As they get older, preschool aged kids can help with mixing and stirring sauces and batters. School aged kids can help with basic meals like pouring cereal or putting together a sandwich. Kids can also help put away the dishes and groceries. As your kids learn to read, they can even help follow recipes and make shopping lists.
8. Get Them to Help Out With the Errands
Running errands with your kids from an early age shows them how certain things are done. You can involve them by sharing your itinerary, such as, “We’re going to the post office and then buying everything on this list at the grocery store.” When they are old enough to read and count, you can give them specific instructions such as getting two boxes of cereal and putting them into the cart. This reinforces their many skills. Preteens should be able to walk to the neighbor’s house safely, with a subtle warning on your part about the dangers of strangers. Teenagers who are old enough to drive a car can do the errands for you. Not only will this save you time, but your kids will get a realistic glimpse of what it takes to be an independent adult, run a household and care for a family.
9. Teach Them to Take Care of Their Personal Belongings
Teach your kids to value their belongings from an early age. You can start by limiting the number of toys your toddler has and purchasing quality items that last. Rotating toys and not replacing broken items helps to show kids that things will not be replaced if they are not cared for. Your kids will develop feelings of pride for their belongings by school age. At this time, they should be willing and able to care for their clothes and put their bikes away. In addition to teaching them independence, these are also good lessons about gratitude and personal responsibility.
10. Teach them to Care for Others
Last, but most certainly not least, helping with the care of someone else is a great way to foster both independence and responsibility in your children. Your preschool aged child can help with feeding and walking the dog, while preteens and teens can help with younger brothers and sisters.
Kids absorb an incredible amount of information and gain a great deal of valuable skills during their formative years. From the toddler to teenage years, parents should recognize these inclinations toward independence, support, and embrace them. Show your enthusiasm and acknowledge your child’s accomplishments as they grow and develop. This will help your kids gain confidence and control, which eventually will make them into complete and independent people.
Can you suggest some other day-to-day activities that foster independence in children?