Independence boosts children’s self-esteem and maturity. By encouraging independence, parents inevitably help their children to realize and reach their full potential. With the increase in independence comes the increase in self-worth and understanding the concept of responsibility. So how to teach independence to children?
When children are young, it’s natural for us to want to do things for them. Doing it for them seems much easier than showing them how to do it. Helping them to learn new things seems time-consuming, sometimes frustrating. There is endless number of excuses for avoiding the hard work for teaching children to do difficult things. However, parents need to recognize that children can never have any degree of independence if they are not taught or given the opportunity to take care of themselves.
Points to consider when encouraging independence in young children:
1. Provide ample opportunities. Let children do things for themselves as soon as they express a desire to do so. Allow them to make choices such as what to wear for an outing.
2. Support by being available for children when need help and assistance. Children who know their parents are there when they need them will have the confidence to take risk and find solutions to their problems.
3. Encourage by praising children, even for attempts that they did not succeed. Focus on the process and effort and avoid being critical of the outcomes. Praising them would also naturally motivate them to want to do more and more for themselves and show that their efforts are appreciated.
4. Scaffold learning by guiding children through simple procedures or step-by-step attempts. Lead them to try new things and to face new challenges. However, parents need to be careful to choose tasks that they are able to accomplish.
Activities for Parents.
1. I Can Do It!
– Help children to identify tasks that they can do for themselves and verbalise the confidence that they would gain from it.
- Together with children, identify some of the things that they can do by themselves. Example: tying shoelaces, dancing themselves, packing their snacks and schoolbags, etc.
- Discuss the different ways that they can learn to do the tasks. After they have done each task, ask them how they feel being able to do the task.
- For those tasks that they are unable to accomplish, follow-up after one month and discuss about their improvement and the new skills that they have acquired.
2. As I Grow
– Discuss about other ways of showing that they can do things on their own – clearing the dishes after a meal, changing their clothes upon returning from school, doing their homework without being asked, know when to watch TV etc.
3. Party Plans
– Help children experience a sense of achievement and independence in doing tasks for themselves.
- Allow children to invite some friends to the house. If it coincides with a child’s birthday or some special celebration, then target the activity for that purpose to make it more meaningful. Give children a budget and some party-related responsibilities.
- Guide children along as they develop an action plan for each activity. If decision appears inappropriate, provide suggestions and alternatives. Spell out likely consequences but allow children to make the final decision. At the end of a successful party, they would have gained a sense of pride and achievement.
4. Buzzing On My Own
– Show children the process of obtaining a subway traveling card or purchasing bus tickets to travel to an agreed destination.
- Decide on a destination to visit – Example: the Zoo, National Park, National Museum or a relative.
- Ask him to draw a plan of the journey with the help of street directory or map.
- Discuss with children to verbalise the plan of actions for every situation.