Implementing independence in your little ones should begin at a very early age otherwise it can be somewhat of an uphill battle trying to make a habit out of it when they get older. It can be an unnerving feeling watching your little one takes over the wheel but allowing them to do it themselves whilst also trusting them, whether the outcome is good or bad, is important. Trusting that your child has learned the right lessons will allow them to flourish in their independence. Metaphorically, independence is like when mama bird pushes her chicks off the nest when they’re ready; with a lot less pushing and more encouraging involved. Let’s have a look at ways you can help your little ones embrace independence.
Acknowledge Their Accomplishments
When your child does learn something new, don’t overlook it. Praise your little one for it, be it learning a new dance or a random fact they picked up from reading. Praise your child for the five-page essay they wrote in school and be genuine with each praise you give, show interest as well in what they’ve accomplished rather than just a drive-by. Praising a child will only deepen their desire to become more independent and successful. Given the chance your little one does a task but fails at it, don’t jump it with negativity. For example, instead of pointing out that her shoes are on the wrong feet, say, “You put on your shoes! Good job! but you’ve got them on topsy turvy”. Give positive follow-up like, “I’m sure you’ll get them on the right way on tomorrow.” Praise your child’s appropriate behaviour, this helps increase the specific behaviour that you are addressing and contributes to a warm interaction with your child. For example, “Great job saying thank you!” or, “I’m proud of you for finishing up all your homework.”
Give Them the Freedom of Choice
Another way to support your child’s independence is to give them choices. Involve them in deciding what to wear, what to play or who to call. This does not have to mean they have free rein. Provide two or three options, and then praise their great ability to make a choice! Providing choices is especially valuable when your little one insists on doing something their way. For example, they might want to cross the street by themselves, which might be something you can’t let them do. By offering a choice, to hold your hand or to be carried; this way, they can feel empowered even while you keep them safe. Independence and discipline do not hail from strict households, schools, or workplaces but rather from the given right to have a choice. Encourage children to make smart decisions by giving them limited choices. For example, “Would you prefer to clean up your bedroom before or after dinner?” Rather than asking the child whether they want to clean up.
Mistakes Are Normal
Your little one is bound to make mistake, it is inevitable! As a matter of fact, we all make mistakes even to this day but that’s exactly how we all learn. Show confidence in their abilities. Even if they make a mistake, and they will tell them how proud you are of them for trying. This also lends itself to starting a healthy dialogue with them about what they learned and the possible solutions for next time. Let go of perfection, your little one may come home with a B on their science test and that’s alright; remind them that they tried their best and that you’re still proud of them. If your little one spills milk, show them how to clean it up and have your little one help. Refrain from scolding or criticizing them, assure them that it happens all the time and it’s alright.
Being able to take responsibility for your actions is an important part of being independent and responsible. Help your child to understand that making mistakes is a part of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Children must understand that no one is perfect, and it is alright to fail. Failure allows them to learn from their mistakes and find alternate ways to master a new skill or task. Teach your little one to not play the ‘blame game’ and to own up to a mistake that they’ve committed. For example, if your little one breaks a vase and he puts the blame on his sister, there should be consequences for lying and not being responsible; you could say something like “I am disappointed in you, I hope you will be responsible for your actions next time”. If your little one admits to breaking the vase, praise them for telling the truth, remind them to be careful and that accidents happen. Children learn by watching their parents. One of the best ways for parents to teach their children to behave responsibly and independently is by displaying those behaviours themselves. Let your children see you making decisions without wavering and taking care of responsibilities in an appropriate manner.