One of the most important skills you can teach your child is a sense of independence. Independence allows their self-esteem to thrive, prepares them for the ups and downs of life, develops a sense of self, and gives them the opportunity to figure out what makes them happy.
Here are some actionable tips to teach your kids independence at any age:
1. Assign Chores
Giving chores to your children is such an important way to grow independence, and it’s a great skill for every stage in life. Giving your kids responsibilities around the house is a simple way to teach self-sufficiency and responsibility. Choose age-appropriate chores for your kids, and even consider asking your kids for feedback about what tasks they feel comfortable doing, and which ones they find overwhelming.
If you have younger kids, give clear step-by-step instructions, and do chores together with music to make it fun! As they get older, find more challenging chores for them to complete, like washing the car or helping with landscaping around the house. Increasing their responsibilities brings a sense of pride and self-assurance to your kids, because it shows that that you have confidence in their abilities. Remember to thank them when they are done!
2. Be a Champion for Their Confidence
Being independent has a lot to do with having confidence in yourself and your abilities. Acknowledge your child’s positive qualities and traits, and give MEANINGFUL praise.
Encourage your kids to pursue activities that bring them joy, and that they have a knack for. This helps build their confidence even more as they put extra time and energy into activities they love, while improving their skills.
3. Find Opportunities For Freedom
There are going to be some situations where allowing your child complete freedom just isn’t reasonable, especially when they’re very little. However, there are usually still small opportunities for freedom and independence you can give them at any age.
For example, toddlers need guidance and supervision with most tasks, but allowing your child to pick out their outfit, brush their teeth, or choose their bedtime story, are reasonable activities that help give freedom to choose.
As you kids get older, they can perform chores, do their own homework, make breakfast, and so on. No matter what age, there are always opportunities for independence!
4. Let Them Make Mistakes
This is extremely challenging for parents, because it’s not easy to watch our kids feel angry or upset. But it is an important lesson when teaching about consequences and rewards.
For example, if it’s reasonable, allow homework to be one of your child’s responsibilities. When they’re accountable for knowing what assignments are due, and when to complete them on time, they quickly learn about repercussions and rewards. If they don’t complete an assignment on time, they may have to make up for it during free time, like recess or sports practice. If they stay on top of their work, they’ll receive praise and recognition from teachers and parents.
The mistakes we learn on our own, as long as they’re not harmful to ourselves or others, teach some of the best life lessons about responsibility and ownership.
5. Encourage Problem-Solving
When your kids come to you with their problems, encourage them to brainstorm creative ways to solve their issues, instead of offering a quick solution. If they are truly stumped, give input and support, rather than an outright answer. This way, you’re allowing your child to make the ultimate decision.
Problem solving is such an important skill throughout life, and practicing with even small decision-making can really help set your kids up for independence.
6. Let Go of Expectations
When you allow your child to have more freedom, it might mean that tasks won’t be done EXACTLY how you would want. You gotta let this go.
For example, when you ask a young child to dress themselves, they may pick out a mismatched outfit. That’s OK! If you ask an older child to clean his or her room, the bed might not be made the way you like it. That’s OK, too! If your kid finishes their school project all by themselves with some flaws, focus on the fact that they completed this project all independently, rather than point out its issues.
Basically, it comes down to letting go of the expectation that your kids will complete a task as well as you can. You’re an adult, you’ve had a lot more practice! Remember, the independence and confidence you are teaching is far more important.
7. Give Praise
Don’t forget to acknowledge and give praise when your kids do something right. When you see your kids expressing their independence or taking initiative, point it out. Thank them! Acknowledging good decision-making is a lot more productive than pointing out bad behavior. Though their task might not be done perfectly, point out the things they did right.
8. Don’t Over-Parent
This is a tough one. Sometimes the most important lessons a child learns happen when they are away from their parents at sports practice, hanging out with friends, or playing outside at recess. When parents aren’t around, children have to become self-sufficient and deal with challenges all on their own.
There are some lessons that we parents can’t teach our kids, that they have to learn on their own. But preparing them for real-world independence, building their confidence, and sending them off with good heads on their shoulders is going to set them up for their own successes. Teach your kids independence through example, practice and praise, and know that you’re helping them guide them with a set of valuable life-long skills!