Start Giving Them the Tools They Need Now! 10 Ways To Raise an Independent Child Who is Self-Reliant
As parents, we want to swoop in and make our child feel better. We don’t want them to hurt, be sad, or feel uncomfortable. Yet overdoing this can easily turn us into helicopter parents and does not help us raise an independent child. Certainly, during a child’s early years they need us as parents to help meet their most basic needs (food, shelter, love, affection, etc.). However, as they grow and become adolescents and eventually adults we need to make sure we are giving them the tools that they need to be self-reliant and overcome the challenges they will face in life. In order to do this, we need to make sure that we fulfill our own responsibilities as parents without taking over or overriding our child’s responsibilities.
Our responsibilities as parents are to provide our child with opportunities and the means to pursue their goals (within reason), take care of logistical concerns and give them guidance, encouragement and most of all, love. Meanwhile, it is our child’s responsibility to give their best effort, to become both responsible and disciplined, maximize the opportunities given to them, and to express both gratitude and appreciation for what they have and the efforts of others. This will help them be intrinsically motivated and ultimately will lead to them being good decision makers.
How to Give Your Child the Tools They Need
In order for your child to meet these responsibilities, you need to make sure they have the appropriate tools in their toolbox. This starts at a young age and should continue throughout their journey to adulthood. Here are 10 ways to raise an independent child who is self-reliant that you can start implementing today.
1. Talk to Your Baby
This is perhaps the easiest thing you can do as a parent. Simply talk to your baby, as early as you can while you are engaging with them, such as changing their diaper, giving them a bath, getting them dressed, etc. Doing this helps your child be an active participant in their own care. You may even take this further by teaching your child baby sign language, giving them the tools to communicate what they want or need, helping them begin to play a more independent role in your conversations and provide input as to what it is they need.
2. Establish a Routine
Young children have very little control over their day to day lives. By establishing a routine you can help your child feel as though they have a sense of control over their world and trust in their environment. Establishing a routine early on in life also helps a child develop their own routines as they get older. It is important to do your best to stick to a routine, no matter how chaotic life gets. Look at the Obamas when they were in the White House. Both of their girls had specific routines to follow, despite their father being the President.
3. Make Their Space Work for Them
If we want our children to be independent, we need to make their space work for them. This will encourage them to exercise their freedom and motivate them to take on tasks themselves. You can make their space work for them by installing low shelves with toys and books they can reach, a special cushioned area where they can go, or even a small table and chair just for them. Keep a limited amount of things that they can access and watch their creativity and independence blossom.
4. Embrace the Mess
Let them do things for themselves, but be ready for the mess. The joy that comes across a child’s face as they feed themselves or are allowed to engage with sensory things like sand or finger paint is unmatched. This helps them get used to different senses but also helps them learn valuable skills like pinching, using a spoon, and so on.
5. If at First They Don’t Succeed
As a parent, this may be the most difficult way to teach our child to be independent. We must be patient and give them the opportunity to try again if they struggle or fail the first time. Whether it’s putting on a shirt, tying shoes, writing an essay, or anything else, we must let them try again. This helps teach problem-solving skills and persistence. If you’re worried about time, schedule extra time for such tasks so that your child can build these important skills.
6. Give Them Responsibilities
Giving children chores is a debated topic, but it’s been found that kids that do chores tend to be more successful as adults. Giving your child chores or other responsibilities helps them learn their role in the family and allows them to contribute to the functioning of the family. This teaches valuable skills that will serve them well into adulthood. Just make sure your chores are age appropriate.
7. Let Them Decide!
One of the best ways to encourage your child to be independent is to let them make decisions (within reason of course). Look and find opportunities for them to do things on their own and let them decide which ones they want to tackle. Let them choose their outfit for the day from two or three different options, helping them feel more in control and independent.
8. Give Them Their Own Experiences
We have to remember, as much as we want to, we cannot control their relationships or their experiences. It is through these experiences where they learn about themselves and about others. When they are younger you can try to control the environment, but you have to let them explore on their own. There are a lot of stories about parents who pushed their kids towards their dream, out of love, of course. It can cause serious struggles and misgivings.
So let them have their school friends, enroll in after-school programs, attend summer camp, and have experiences on their own.
9. Teach Responsibility
One of the most important things we can teach our children is to be responsible for themselves. There are numerous ways to do this, and they all must be age appropriate. For instance, if your 8-year old signs up for 8 weeks of soccer and wants to quit after 2, we need to encourage them to be responsible and stick it out the whole 8 weeks. If your child is older, you can follow Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who has his 16-year old daughter work to have the spending money to go out with her friends. It all about helping your child accept their role in their successes and failures and to stick with the commitments they make.
10. Manage Your Own Anxieties
Relax! It’s going to be okay. It is often our own insecurities that hold them back and keep them from blooming into independent, self-reliant individuals sooner. Being concerned and understanding the risks is one thing, it’s another to be anxious to the point of negatively affecting your mental health. Of course, you have to work on eliminating the biggest risks to your child i.e. make sure your yard is fenced in, etc. Controlling your own anxieties gives your child the freedom to explore and become independent.
It’s All About Helping Them Be Self-Reliant
At the end of the day, we want our children to succeed in life. We want them to be independent, self-reliant, and confident in tackling the challenges the world will throw at them. The best way to do this is to start early and to tackle one area at a time so that they (and you) don’t get overwhelmed. Always take into consideration the circumstances (are they sick, tired, stressed, etc.) and learn when to pull back. While they need you to push them, they also need you to be there to support them and encourage them. In taking these little steps now we can teach our children to navigate the world with confidence and help them be the best individuals they can be.
Hi, I’m Lee David (also known as Lady D)! I am a mother to five awesome kids (I know, I’m brave J), a (boring?) CPA at the mornings and mommy blogger at nights. I write about psychology and parenting. Get access to my free printable “11 Things You Probably Say to Your Child – and What to Say Instead” and improve the atmosphere in your home TODAY!