As parents, it feels good—great even —when our kids NEED us. When they turn to us for guidance, affection, even that peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Those are all good things.
We do have to remind ourselves, however, our long-term parenting goal is to guide our kids from being totally dependent on us to being independent thinkers and doers. That’s no overnight task.
It happens in all the little moments and lessons that occur in the day-to-day. From little steps like letting them pick out their own clothes to tying their own shoes, to helping them learn to weigh out what to spend their allowance on to choosing a college that suits them. Every little decision they make, right or wrong, along the way is a learning experience that will help lead them to be independent people we can be proud of.
Then, the thrill you get when you see them take on a task all by themselves and win at it? That’s awesome! If you’re eager to see more of that, let’s look at six terrific tips for helping your kids embrace independence.
- Encourage effort: That perfection thing? It’s overrated and it causes a LOT of anxiety for kids. In fact, some kids are so locked into the fear of failure – they won’t even try. Instead, focus on the EFFORT. Encourage your kids to try new things, to go out of their comfort zones and be creative without the pressure to succeed or win or be perfect. When you do, they’ll be more willing to take on new tasks in the future.
- Family contributions: Every member of a family plays an important role in a successfully running household. From setting out napkins to picking up toys – encouraging kids to contribute in age-appropriate ways teaches them that they are part of an indispensable team that needs them! This builds their confidence, and encourages them to want to do even more.
- Promote problem solving. Curb your desire to jump in and fix. When a problem arises, wait. Give your child the opportunity to come up with solutions. Ask them “How?” questions. “How could you make your sister feel better after you took her action figure?” “How could you make sure you get up in time to make the bus?” If you want them to think for themselves, don’t provide all the answers.
- Take Time for Training: Each week, work on learning something new in a fun and engaging way. As children learn new skills and tasks, they feel more confident in learning the next one. Who knows, they may even help YOU learn something new!
- Turn over the reins: Every single day is filled with hundreds of choices. Apple or banana? Peanut butter or ham and cheese? Red shoes or blue? Allowing your children to make those small choices gives them a sense of control and dominion over their lives which leads to independent thinking. It also helps them take ownership of those choices – for some reason that peanut butter sandwich tastes SO much better since they picked it!
- Structure is a safety net: Providing structured routines for mornings, afternoons and evenings gives your kids the safety net they need to try new things in a controlled environment. That helps keep them from feeling overwhelmed by the process, and helps you keep the peace!
Raising kids to be independent thinkers and to take a proactive role in their everyday lives is a little scary for some parents at first. Don’t worry, they’ll always NEED you. Teaching them to do things for themselves is just part of being an amazing parent. Think of it as a gift that keeps on giving!
For more ways to develop strong, independent children that listen more, behave better and are prepared for future success, join me for our next webinar, How to Get Kids to Listen Without Yelling, Nagging or Reminding. Click LEARN MORE below for times and to register. I promise you’ll come away with tools you can start using right away! See you online!