Tips for helping young kids find their independence

Kid_tying_shoeMost of the struggles of parenting of young children stem from children’s fierce desire to be independent.  In fact, independence is the work of childhood.

From the moment children are born, all the milestones are about independence:  sitting up, holding a cup, crawling, walking.  Leap forward to learning to ride a bike without training wheels or jumping in the pool or go way out to the teenage years – one of the biggest milestones – learning to drive.  And what do you do when you learn to drive?  You drive away from your parents!
In the early school years, the strive for independence can be time consuming.  Waiting while they button their shirt or tie their shoes or brush their teeth.  These are the little milestones of independence that bring a morning rush to a screeching halt.  No struggle with a five-year-old has ever made the morning rush for the bus or the car go faster.

When we take over for children, we are depriving them of the chance to master a new skill or acquire a new confidence.  We also give children a subtle message that if asked we would not want to convey.  Underneath the “let me do it for you” statement is the message, “I don’t think you can do it for yourself.”

Allowing for independence takes patience and acceptance.  In the morning, add in extra time for your child to accomplish tasks by themselves.  Don’t worry if the shirt does not match the pants or the purple tights clash with the yellow dress.  It does not matter.  Keep your head on what matters – they did it themselves.  No teacher will judge your parenting skills by the mismatched clothes.

Independent children are more likely to make a new friend and take an academic risk. They are also more likely to be resilient.  Independence does not mean you don’t care about others – it means you have confidence in yourself.

Next time you want to intervene instead say, “Have a go at it.”

Author Westtown School