As your child grows, they learn so many new things and become very curious about the world around them. Before you know it, they're crawling, walking, talking, and definitely giving you their opinions on what they think, feel, like, and don't like. It can be exciting and entertaining to watch them develop their independence and individual personalities. However, sometimes there may be moments when they become too attached to you or your partner--not wanting to do anything without your help or presence. So what can you do? How do you can encourage your child to learn independence in a positive and healthy way?
Opportunities to develop independence are immensely important for building a sense of self and self-esteem — as well as to cope with frustration, work on skills, and develop tolerance and perseverance! So here are a few tips to help you give your child those opportunities.
1. Give Them a Routine
Having your child participate in any kind of routine is a great way for them to become more independent. It can be a simple routine like getting up in the morning and making their bed, putting away their breakfast plate, brushing their teeth, or zipping up their own jackets.
Small things like this are perfect for your child to practicing doing on their own; they will love doing them because they will feel responsible and more grown up.
Having a predictable routine allows your child to become more independent and to understand what to expect, which in turn will lead to fewer tantrums and fewer surprises.
Encourage them that you know that they can do it and that if they need help you'll be there. Don't forget to applaud them when they are doing their routines--this helps show them that they're doing a great job, that you are proud of them, and that doing things on your own is fun.
2. Give Your Child Choices
You can involve your child in what they want to wear, what they want to play, what they want to eat for a meal, or even what activities/interests they want to participate in. Rather than making them feel like you have 100% of control of everything in their lives, loosen the reins a little (within limits) and allow them to make choices. Let them know that their voice and opinion matters.
As shared on Parent.com, "Offering reasonable levels of freedom and allowing children to make choices is a great way to empower them, build confidence in their decision-making skills, and help build a sense of responsibility."
But also be mindful to not give them too many options because it can overwhelm them; instead give them a couple of choices such as, "Would you rather go to the zoo or the aquarium?"
3. Let Your Child Help
Speaking from personal experience, I know how important it is to invite and allow your child to help you. It can be with anything, from helping sweeping the floors, cracking an egg, or mixing a bowl of cake batter. As long as it is safe, you can let them help with even the tiniest of tasks.
Children are often looking for ways to be involved in what you're doing, because not only do they see it as a way to help, but they also want to have your time and attention. My children love helping me cook, putting away the utensils, planting in our garden, and so many other things.
As you allow your child to help, you are fostering confidence in them and giving them an opportunity to learn something new. Kids will also love showing off what they helped with to others and be excited about the moments you let them help.
4. Give your Child Chores
Depending on your child's age, you can start introducing and encouraging your child to do chores. It can be anything from grabbing a trash bag to replace the dirty one, feeding the family pet, vacuuming, dusting, setting the table, putting away their toys in their room, or even pushing the laundry machine's button to start the laundry (my toddlers have loved this one)!
So how does this help create independence? Because you are giving them a sense of responsibility and empowerment as they get to see how their hard work is appreciated and how it contributes to the family altogether!
5. Let Your Child Solve Problems and Make Mistakes
First off, let me just say that this one can be a hard one to swallow. Don't get me wrong--we all want our child to figure things out for themselves, but it requires some patience from us parents. We just naturally want to do things for them, because we are the parents, right? We also automatically think that we can get the job done faster. But over-correcting and always doing everything for them (starting during the toddler years and on) will not help them to grow and learn.
We need to allow them to solve problems for themselves, such as learning what shoe goes on what foot, or even when they're learning to walk, giving them a safe space to allow them to fall. These examples and more allow your child to really think about what to do next, what happens if it doesn't go right, and to figure out what is the best way to do something afterwards.
6. Encourage Creative Time
Take out some crayons, markers, or sensory items that can spark your child's creativity and interest. Kids are naturally born with the desire to create, and when they play with sensory objects or do something creative, they focus and use their imaginations to make it their own.
Show them how proud you are of their work. Give them encouragement and guidance if they need help, and have faith that they can do things on their own. Allow them to play with shapes, animals, leaves, dress up, spoons or pans, and more! Kids truly learn so much through playing and creating.
Other Ways of Encouraging Independence:
- Design a space with independence in mind: You've probably already seen this with a Montessori program that really physically involves a child when it comes to learning. Maybe have some cups, plates, or a hook for them to hang up their backpack. Think about ways you can increase the chances of your child being able to do something on their own.
- Allow them to be bored: This helps them develop planning strategies, problem-solving skills, flexibility, and creativity.
- Let them plan menus and help shop for groceries
- Give them space
- Have them volunteer
Encouraging independence in your child can be a gift and a struggle. It's going to take time, effort, and trust to guide your child to become more independent, and that is completely alright!
Ask yourself if your child can do this on their own, and if they can and it is safe, then let them! As you give them some gentle nudging, they will become more confident and self-reliant. The rewards are well worth it! It's truly amazing to see your children figure things out and grow into little independent human beings. Let us know what other ways you've helped your child learn to be independent.