At A Glance:
- Independence in children makes them confident of themselves and their decisions.
- Providing the right opportunities, grooming oneself like a gardener, able to provide love and guidance but also knowing to let go when needed is a parent’s vital responsibility.
- Make the child aware that they are accountable for their actions, both achievements and mistakes.
Caught yourself rushing to get your child ready for school, even when you know she can do it herself? Felt a proud smile adorn your face as your toddler took her first steps? Ever felt tugged between the urge to let your child take her decisions and fear for her safety?
Parenting is a journey, a complex yet fulfilling one. One of the most beautiful and precious gifts you can give your child is to make her an independent and capable individual.
Independent children are able to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions as they move ahead in life, become good decision-makers, are confident of their abilities, self-motivated and are able to share a collaborative relationship with their parents based on guidance, encouragement, respect and love.
Parenting – An Analogy
Parenting is a delicate act of allowing your child to slowly take up responsibilities as they age. Your infant is completely dependent on you for all her needs. While she grows, she can handle these basic needs on her own, but still looks out to you for love and guidance. an adolescent, she becomes even more self-reliant, until adulthood where she blooms into a completely self-dependent individual.
Parents thus resemble the role of a gardener. A plant blooms under the loving care of a gardener who provides it with water, manure and a favourable environment to stand strong later without support, on its own.
Parents too need to shower their children with love and respect, trust and guidance, provide them with the right opportunities, know when to let go and balance safety with healthy risk to help them blossom into independent people.
Here’s how you can help encourage your child to be independent:
1. Provide Opportunities
Let your child begin by making simple choices like what she would like to wear for a family outing or what she would prefer for breakfast. You can set respectable boundaries such as healthy breakfast options she could choose from. Make a list of tasks the child could do by herself, for instance keeping her books neatly stacked. Ask her what she feels she’s big enough to do. That way she can try new tasks with you by her side if needed.
2. Introduce Responsibility
One of the ways to foster independence is to teach your child what her responsibilities are. The best path is to ensure both you and your child are clear about your respective responsibilities are. For instance, yours could be to color label toy boxes and the child’s duty could be to put the toys back in the right ones. Make a list and identify responsibilities clearly.
Make it clear that there will be consequences if they are not fulfilled completely. This process ensures that neither you nor your child step down from your enlisted duties. Let the child know that they are responsible for their actions. That they can claim responsibility for their achievements only if they own up to their mistakes and failures. This goes a long way in helping them become strong decision-makers.
3. Allow Ample Growth
Observe what skills your child has mastered and what she finds difficult. For example, she could be able to put on her clothes properly, but might struggle with tying her shoelaces and tie. Help your child initially, guide her through the process. Next, encourage her to practice it for a few days.
Soon enough, she will be able to do it by herself. Allow the child to explore, push the horizon higher, but always ensure that you are there in case she needs a fall back. Security is providing your child with love and guidance, a home to return to, while independence ensures she isn’t afraid to push her limits.
4. Praise Genuinely
Be kind to your child’s efforts. If she’s done up her shirt buttons wrong, you could say, “You could button them up on your own, good job!”. She will discover the misfit soon enough. Say something positive like, “Don’t worry, next time you will surely get it right!”
5. Embrace Mistakes
Children are meant to make mistakes, learn from them and grow. Right from the time they start trying to stand on their two little feet. Hence, do not expect undue perfection from your child. If she’s spilt food on her dress, show her how to clean up without criticizing or being harsh. On the flip side, realize that you aren’t always going to be there to protect from mistakes and consequences. When they are really young, they do require your guidance and support. However, as they grow older they learn more mistakes, trial and error.
6. Be Open to Change
Be flexible with routines. If the child feels tired, don’t introduce new responsibilities. Consistency helps the child maintain discipline and feel safe, but being rigid restricts their growth. If you have fixed a no-gadget time before bed, that’s perfectly fine. But you could add 15 minutes extra to the time she can use a gadget to watch her favourite show. Such changes help build a sense of goodwill and cooperation, along with clarity of what works and what doesn’t in your child and the family.
7. Safety and Health
Risks are one thing, but healthy risk is a different ballgame. It is a parent’s duty to keep their child safe. Healthy risks are where you do get stressed out, but know that this opportunity is important for your child’s growth and development. Let your child take up activities like riding a bike or hiking up a hill after you have clearly explained the pros and cons, do’s and don’ts. You have thus done what you need to and your child knows how to be careful.
8. Place Confidence
The greatest treasure we give our child apart from the warmth of love, is a rock-solid confidence in their abilities. Let them know you are by their side if they need you, but encourage them to take up new activities, appreciate both the process and the achievements.
- Ease your child slowly into taking up age-appropriate responsibilities.
- Let them make simple informed choices within reasonable boundaries set by you.
- Provide them with love and guidance, but let them be after a while. Let them grow whilst also ensuring you are their safe haven when they need it.
- Independence is truly the greatest gift you can give your child.