3 Tips on How to Raise Independent Children

Here are some tips on how to help nurture the gift of independence early on in your child.

By 02 April, 2012

tying shoelace

Perhaps one of the most difficult things parents could experience is when they have to start “letting go” of their child, as he transitions to another phase in his life. For parents of young children, such as preschoolers, the urge may be to “coddle” him, in the hopes of protecting him from danger. It would only be natural for any parent to safeguard his child.

But when opportunities present themselves to let your child learn on his own, how do you draw the line between unnecessary hovering and reasonable guidance? How do you make a stand so that by doing what you need to do, you don’t end up spoiling him?

How do you nurture independence in your child?

If you’ve heard of helicopter parenting, then you know how too much of a good thing can be bad - in this case, it’s that unwanted “hovering” around your child. Striking a balance between helping them and letting them discover things on their own is tantamount to reaffirming them of their competence, and giving them confidence that they are capable of looking after their own needs.

Says educational psychologist Michele Borba, “"It just may help (to) alter your current response with your kids. And here's a big reason why: Researchers are seeing this phenomenon of "parental hovering" (aka micro-managing, overparenting or helicoptering) as a dangerous trend when it comes to how our kids turn out. The long and the short is: If we keep hovering, we'll rob our kids of an essential trait for L.I.F.E. called self-reliance!"

The good news is that you can actually start now and slowly ease your child into being self-reliant and independent. How? We share some tips:

1. Praise him for his achievements.
No matter how small or simple, a parent’s positive affirmation of his feats helps build his confidence in himself. Start with errands at home, like making his bed or setting the table. As long as the tasks are age-appropriate, then there shouldn’t be any reason for you to fear for his safety. Acknowledge that he’s done a good job. This will encourage him to keep doing those responsibilities without the help of Mommy or Daddy.

2. Let him accomplish his homework with minimal supervision.
There’s a big difference between letting your child figure out his assignment and you ending up doing it for him. While it’s important that your child knows he can depend on you for guidance, remember that that’s exactly what you’re there for: guidance.

Assess the difficulty of the homework, and let your child discern what is being asked of him. Ask questions so you can gauge just how much your child understood from the lesson. Giving examples is alright, but don’t flat out answer the homework for him. Gently prodding is key. Steer him into the path of thinking that is required so he learns to do his homework by himself.

Don’t tempt him to keep asking you for help by just being around while he does this himself. Instead, sit with him for a few minutes, perhaps, but don’t stay there. Attend to other needs in the house and go check on him every once in a while just to monitor his progress.

3. Allow him to make decisions on his own.
When a child is ready to make choices, that means he’s showing signs already of being responsible for his thoughts and actions. That means he’s thinking and using his knowledge of what is correct and incorrect.

Begin with simple decisions like “Would you like to use the bathroom right before we leave for the trip or can you wait until the first stop over?” This way, he’ll discover for himself what are the consequences of not using the bathroom before a trip.

Respond with openness and patience. Avoid reprimanding him, and instead calmly explain to him the nature of his mistake, so he’ll feel that making wrong decisions is part of the whole learning process, and eventually, of gaining independence.


You may also want to read:
Fostering Independence in Your Preschooler

Sources:
• February 5, 2009. “How to raise children: A 10-point guide to domestic bliss” independent.co.uk
• November 17, 2010. Jim Taylor, Ph.D. “Parenting: Raise Independent Children” psychologytoday.com
• “3 Things You Should Never Do For Your Kids” mydailymoment.com

Photography by Ocs Alvarez