Today's Friday Feature is brought to you by...Independence Day. We thought it was apropos to celebrate the independence of our country while also promoting the independence of our children.
As a parent, do you ever get tired of washing the dishes, making snacks, bathing children, tidying toys, and picking clothes off the ground? (Um, obvi). Have you ever asked yourself if you needed to do these things? Don't get us wrong, it's not a question of IF these things need to get done. Rather, it's if YOU are the only one that can do it. Many times, parents get into the habit of doing it all that they forget to ask themselves if their children have the ability and thus, responsibility to help or care for themselves.
Little actions lead to big changes over time. When kids help and become responsible for daily tasks and self-care, these actions build confidence in themselves and trust with parents who then see them more competently. This win-win scenario builds the foundation for kids to assume and accept more age-appropriate responsibility, which continues to strengthen confidence and trust with caregivers. IRL experience is what leads to growth and development.
Promoting independence isn't tricky and it doesn't have to be hard. You really don't even need a formal system. Rather, you might just need a little mindset shift.
Don't do what your child is capable of doing. While this seems brutally obvious, parents are efficient creatures. We tie shoes and pack lunches without even blinking. Before you do something for your child, ask yourself if they can do it on their own. Yes, it might take longer and yes, it might look sloppy, but how else will they learn? Actions send messages. So, if you are always doing things for your child that they can do on their own, you may be sending a message that you don't believe them to be capable. Hint: If you are letting your kiddo tie their own shoes, you may want to plan for some extra time.
If your child can't do something on their own (that you want them to do later), let them help you do it. Getting exposure to more complicated skills in this fashion eases the transition to independence. Helping you allows your child to feel and experience the skill with some help. Then, the skill itself won't seem so big or overwhelming. Watch, if you do this a bunch, your kiddo will be able to and will want to do this skill on their own.
We all want to be in control and kids are no different. Promoting independence involves decision-making and the power of choice. if kids are told what to do without the opportunity for choice, this disempowers. If your child is offered choices throughout their day, they feel that they are involved and in control of their life. Try and find opportunities for choices throughout the day. For example, if you want your child to eat a healthy snack, say, "Do you want grapes or an apple?" If you want them to do a non-preferred activity, you can say, "do you want to do math worksheets for 10 minutes or 15 minutes?" (fully knowing that 10 minutes is enough)
Look, we know that promoting independence, even though it's good for our kids, can be met with unhappiness and a poor attitude. Don't let this deter you from your greater mission. It's ok when our kids are unhappy when presented with reasonable demands or expectations. They'll grow and be better for it in the long run. Stay the course. This lets them know that you believe in their ability and that you trust their process to be independent.