Do you have a child who constantly runs to you, crying for help? Is your child unable to tolerate even a little frustration when they face small problems? Maybe your child whines all the time because he or she is afraid of making mistakes and wants you to do everything for them.
It is hard to watch your children struggle and give up in the face of adversity, but on the other hand, you wish to have children who are independent enough to handle their own problems and have the courage to walk through some rough patches along the road of life.
Although it is tough to stay chill when your children are stuck in a plight, ironically that is the best way to encourage them to be independent. By letting your children face challenges alone and find their own solutions, you enable them to become resilient and overcome hardship.
5 tips on how to raise children to be independent
1. Give them time to develop problem-solving skills
Parents struggle to watch their children struggle. For instance, it is hard to watch your little one hesitate in fear to get down even a short flight of stairs. But rather than intervening, try staying close enough to your child to maintain their safety, and coaching them to sit and drag their bum one step at a time, or turn around and crawl down backwards.
Parents tend to jump in to help their children at the first sign of difficulty, and wind up doing most of the work for them. But to cultivate problem-solving skills, children should struggle with the problems they are facing firsthand, and figure out how to solve them. As long as it is a harmless struggle, let your little ones take their time and go through trial and error to figure out the solution for themselves.
2. Teach your child to fish instead of catching the fish for them
Young children go through many stages of development, from learning to sit up to walking, feeding themselves and potty training. Once your child reaches the age that they can handle a particular task, show them how to do it and let them try, regardless of how perfect the result might be.
For example, wiping after a bowel movement is the last stage young children have to go through to fully master potty training. But many parents keep doing it for their children long after their youngsters are ready, simply because it is hard to stand the imperfect results their children are able to manage in the beginning. Instead, keep encouraging them by demonstrating how to do it, and let them try their best. Even in the worst-case scenario, all you have to do is help them into the shower.
Another good example is brushing teeth. Many parents struggle with letting kids brush their own teeth for fear of cavities. But take a deep breath and remember that milk teeth are temporary, so your child has a chance to develop good hygiene before the permanent teeth set in.
Let your child hold the toothbrush in front of a mirror and let them do it themselves while coaching them how to do it properly. Rather than maintaining control over the brush to yield the results you are expecting, show them constantly with songs and modelling how and where to brush their teeth properly, whether on your own teeth or using a toy or dental model.
3. Let your child make mistakes
According to studies, our brain shows increased activity after we make mistakes, as it reacts with conscious attention to the errors. In other words, our brain physically develops and grows when we make mistakes, by actively reacting to the errors.
So be patient; let your children make a mess and take their time—however excruciating it might be watching them struggle to put on their clothes and shoes or feed themselves. Let them experience doing it by themselves and making many mistakes. Your child might wind up wearing their shirt backward and their shoes on the wrong feet, and it might make them uncomfortable. Show them tricks to remember, and how to put it right, but let them have however many backward shirts and mixed-up shoes they need to get it right.
One of the most important lessons parents can teach from an early age is that it is okay to make mistakes. Help them understand that experiencing mistakes and failures is an inevitable part of tasting success.
Never assume your child is too young for any responsibility. Children need to feel a sense of belonging and purpose, as well as a feeling that they are contributing at home, in order to later expand that meaningfulness to include school, their community, and society in general.
Giving your children responsibilities from a young age can be one way to reduce their chances of misbehaving. Children get a sense of safety and belonging by having a role and responsibilities within the framework of their daily lives.
Help your child to find their own responsibilities around the house, no matter how small they might be. It could be watering the plants or feeding their pet or walking the dog. Let them help you around the house with simple responsibilities, which in turn will help them build self-discipline and independence.
5. Give choices within reason
You can let your children choose what to wear to school—even though it might not look so “put together”. If your child picks something inappropriate for the weather or season, you can tweak their selection by removing impractical items and use it as an opportunity to teach your child about picking clothes for the weather. But leaving home on time to catch the bus each day is non-negotiable, so if your child spends too much time picking out clothes, try letting him or her pick the next day’s outfit after school or before bedtime.
You can find many opportunities for your children to make their own decisions without compromising your schedule, such as providing a selection of snacks or meals for them to choose from, or letting them pick the color of their shoes, clothes, or bag when shopping, and so on.
But never feel guilty about limiting your children’s choices in the interest of their own safety and well-being. Don’t give in on a non-negotiable point just because your child cries or shows negative emotion. Instead, read their emotion and reassure them that you understand their frustration, explain clearly what they should do and why, and help them proceed to the required action as quickly as possible.
For example, if your child whines because he is too tired to brush his teeth, you have to accept his frustration, but ask him to hop down from his bed and head to the bathroom, otherwise, he might need to visit the dentist to treat a cavity.
Take inspiration from Montessori education to raise an independent child
One of the main features of Montessori pedagogy is raising independent children by developing natural curiosity through a hands-on learning environment. From an early age, parents accommodate their children by making necessary daily activities easily accessible, to facilitate real-life learning experiences.
1. Promote hands-on learning
Children are encouraged to learn by following their natural interests through independent activities. They learn how to perform necessary daily routines by themselves from an early age, such as feeding, dressing, and washing. By handling everything from cutlery to toothbrushes by themselves, they gain confidence and develop independence from an early age.
2. Emphasis on real-world skills and experiences
Parents can lead children to handle many daily routines by themselves by showing them how and letting them try for themselves. By showing a willingness to take risks, extend trust, and tolerate their mistakes, we can empower our children to experience and overcome failures to become more resilient and independent.
3. Facilitate movement and activities
Parents can accommodate their children’s learning process by providing them with enough space and easy access to activities so they can explore under the safety of parental observation.
For example, enabling children to easily access dishes, utensils, ingredients and clothing in a space suited to their physical size will enable them to prepare their own breakfast and clean up after themselves, as well as get dressed by themselves.
4. Minimalistic, organized space
A clean and organized space with limited materials can direct children’s attention to focus on useful skills as well as help them to explore each toy and tool more deeply.
5. Freedom within boundaries
Giving children enough freedom to explore their surroundings and exposing them to challenges is one of the best ways to grow their independence. Within limits regarding children’s safety, parents should let their children try new things and learn through exploration.
If you are looking for ways to provide your little one with a safe and encouraging learning environment to become more independent, Montessori pedagogy offers a wealth of insight.
The best way to raise your child independently is to let your child make their own decisions and go through trial and error to figure out solutions to their problems and attain their own goals. As long as you are there for them to maintain boundaries for their health and safety, extending freedom and showing them trust will help your children thrive and grow to be self-sufficient and resilient even in the face of life’s many tough realities.
Give your children choices and responsibility, and let them make their own decisions, however many mistakes they might make along the way. Watch out for their health and safety, but restrain your desire to intervene as your children navigate the many bumps and hoops along the way toward independence and success.
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