Children strive towards independence from an early age, driven by a desire to make things happen and feel competent. Some parents encourage their children to be independent and to do things for themselves, while others are more reluctant to give in to children’s demands for independence, not wanting their ‘baby’ to grow up. As an adult it is part of your role to provide love and support, encourage curiosity and exploration, teach skills and allow children to make appropriate choices.
Encouraging children to be independent through simple tasks like feeding and dressing themselves, walking places rather than be carried, beginning the toilet training journey, and making simple choices between 2 or 3 options, all help children to feel confident and become independent. By avoiding doing for the child what they are capable of doing themselves parents are nurturing the development of self-reliance. It is common for busy parents to do things for their children as it is ‘easier’, although as children grow older they may become dependent, making it more difficult to encourage children to try things for themselves.
There are many ways you can support and encourage your child to become independent, and although it does take lots of time and patience the results are worth it in the end!
Some suggestions are;
- Let children do things for themselves. Even very young children show an interest in doing things for themselves. Parents should encourage children to try things for themselves, then offer support if children are still having difficulty. Parents should also remember to focus on the effort that children put in, rather than looking for the end product. For example children should be encouraged to feed themselves rather than someone feed them for fear of them making a mess
- Help and encourage children to solve their own problems. Problem solving is a skill that must be learned, and starting from a young age parents can teach their children problem-solving strategies. Children can be encouraged to think about solutions to their problems, and test them out before looking to an adult to step in and solve problems for them. The ability to problem solve is a skill that will be used throughout children’s lives and will aid the development of confidence and independence.
- Provide adequate guidance. Consistent and clear guidelines are important to give children structure in their lives and help children learn what is expected of them. It is okay to say no, and be firm with your child.
- Praise your children. It is even more important to praise your children and let them know what a great job they did when displaying independent behaviours. This lets children know parents are noticing and appreciating their efforts.
Independence is all a part of growing up and children get a great deal of satisfaction when they successfully complete tasks on their own, so why not start encouraging your child to try things for themselves?