Providing children with the opportunity to build, grow, and foster their independence and self-esteem is not always an easy task. As parents and caregivers, we often lose sight of the importance of encouraging children to do things on their own. While it may take a bit longer for your child to do things independently, the benefits outweigh the risks. Check out these five tips for fostering your child’s independence.
- Offer them choices. Offering choices helps children feel empowered and will prepare them to make even bigger choices as they grow. Begin by allowing your child to pick out parts of their breakfast or lunch, for example: do you want a banana or an orange with your sandwich at lunch? Or, allow your child to pick out their clothes each morning, offering 2 to 3 options.
- Allow your child to struggle before intervening. It’s important for children to learn that some tasks may take effort and, as you try, and try again, you will ultimately complete the task at hand. Allowing your child to struggle will provide them with a sense of pride and will also help to build confidence, self-esteem, and independence.
- Encourage risk-taking. As a parent or caregiver, your number one job is to keep your children safe from harm. However, allowing healthy risk taking, can help your child develop critical thinking skills, confidence, and independence. Rather than throwing a fit when your child attempts to climb a tree or wants to make their way down the big slide, watch them closely and encourage them to continue. If you feel like your children might be in danger, coach them and offer safety tips rather than reprimanding them.
- If your child can do something for themselves, let them. Children will innately want to do things on their own, like putting on their shoes, getting themselves dressed, buckling their car seats, and much more. If your child is capable of completing these tasks independently, let them. While it may take a bit longer for your child to complete these tasks, you’ll be fostering their independence by not intervening, and often, avoiding a meltdown.
- Assign them with responsibilities. Children as young as 2 years old are capable of being tasked with chores and responsibilities. These tasks can be as simple as putting away their toys to the tune of the “Clean Up Song,” feeding pets, or for older children, sweeping and mopping floors. Provide children with an opportunity to contribute to household tasks. A study by the University of Minnesota found that children who had been given chores beginning at ages 3 and 4 experienced more success as adults. Now that’s a skill that we can get behind!