Fostering Independence in Kids
We can’t help our kids grow by solving all of their problems and making all of their choices for them. It would be great if they lived in a perfect environment where nothing harmed them, but that isn’t how the real world operates. It’s important that we instill strong senses of independence in our kids so they learn to care for themselves. These tips will help.
1. Teach social and language skills.
One of the best tools we have to solve our own problems is our ability to communicate with one another. If I have a question, I ask someone who knows the answer (which is often Google, but the ability to search is just another way of using language to solve the problem). Socialize your kids around other kids and adults so they have experience with a broad range of people. Encourage questions and give truthful answers.
2. Teach problem solving.
After years of mommy and daddy solving all their problems, some kids prefer to simply defer to their parents when a problem comes up, and many parents have a hard time breaking the cycle. When your child asks you a question that isn’t out of their capacity to figure out, prompt them to solve it themselves. Ask, “What do you think the answer is?” or “How would you do it if I wasn’t here?” You’ll be surprised how often they solve it themselves, but of course, teach them if they don’t know how.
3. Create routines that foster independence.
When you give a kid a routine to follow, they feel independent once they can accomplish it on their own. This breeds confidence, which in turn creates further independence. Teachers label coat hooks and cubbies so kids can manage their own belongings. Eventually they learn to stow their personal items even without the labels. Take this a step further by creating organizational systems at home so your child can learn how to manage his own affairs.
4. Encourage the creation of lists.
Lists are one of the most empowering tools when it comes to organizing one’s life and responsibilities. They break down complex tasks that seem unmanageable in our heads and give us that satisfying feeling as a reward when we cross things off.
5. Give them a chance to solve conflicts.
Sometimes the best teacher of anything is experience. You can talk until you’re blue in the face about resolving personal conflicts, but they won’t understand until they’re apart of one. If you see your child arguing with his friend or playdate over something, give them a minute to sort it out before you jump in and save the day. The day might not need to be saved. You’ll teach a valuable lesson that you child has control to fix his own disputes.
6. Find the right balance.
I can’t give you any specifics here because every child is different, but you’ll have to find the right balance of freedom to give your children. If you offer too much, they might abuse it. Too little, and you won’t teach them anything. For example: don’t brush your son’s teeth for him, but watch nearby. Just like a muscle, push independence a little, but not so much to cause trauma.
Guest Blog by Karri Bowen-Poole, Founder of Smart Playrooms
Smart Playrooms is owned and operated by teachers with many years of classroom experience and expertise. They bring the most effective classroom organization techniques and learning strategies into your home.
Smart Playrooms works to encourage kids to get back to the basics of play, using their creative side for art projects and imaginary play. Stressing that less is more, they help moms focus on the toys that will add to the experience. Some moms ask them to help organize their home, but Karri and Chris really like the idea of using their educational backgrounds to create custom designed playrooms. Plus, this gives them a niche in the market. Former teachers setting up your playroom – what could be better!
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