Jun 08,2020

How to encourage children to be more independent?

Most books related to the subject of raising children tell us that one of the most important parenting goals is to help the kids become independent from us. We are persistently encouraged to think about our children as unique beings, with various temperaments, tastes, feelings, dreams – not to raise them in our image. So how can we help them become self-sufficient?

Above all else, we should allow them to act as they wish, struggle with their own problems and let them learn from their mistakes. Obviously, it’s easier said than done. On the one hand, our children are clearly dependent from us – due to their young age and lack of experience, we need to show, do, and teach them a lot of things. On the other hand, the fact they require so much guidance might also lead to hostility. Therefore, it’s essential to work on a child’s autonomy every day. We’ll list specific methods that can help children become more self-reliant below:

1. Let children choose

Allowing children to make even the smallest choice increases their possibility of having more control over their lives. Proposing a choice often moderates the child’s anger and spite towards a specific situation. Here are a few examples:

Instead of saying “You need to take this medicine”, you can say “I know you don’t like this medicine. Maybe it would be easier for you to take it with some apple or orange juice?

Instead of saying “Go to bed right away”, you can say “This seems like the right time for mom and dad to talk, and for you to go to bed. Do you want to go to sleep right away, or do you want to play a little in bed first, and then call us so we can tell you ‘Good night’?”

Instead of “Put on long trousers, it’s cold”, you could say “Would you like to put on the grey or the red trousers today?”

You can also suggest a child they come up with their own option. If it’s acceptable for both sides, the child will feel content and autonomous.

2. Show respect towards a child’s struggles

Usually, when we tell children something is easy, we think we’re encouraging them, but it’s the exact opposite. When kids realize they’ve  done something rather simple, they feel like they haven’t achieved much. Hence, If they fail, they’ll think they couldn’t do something easy. That’s why saying “It’s not that simple” or “This might be challenging” offers them comfort in case they fail, because they realize that what they’ve tried to do would be difficult for many others as well.

It’s hard for parents to sit idly by when they see their child really struggle with a specific task. They want to help them or, in case of situations when they’re in a hurry, simply do it for them. It’s important, however, to grant kids that independence. Although, we can, for example, give them a few tips (“It’s easier to use the jacket zipper when you push the metal part in that little spot”).

Obviously, parents need to follow common sense and intuition. If they know their child is tired, they could put his socks on for him, or help her out with a specific task, even though the children could have done it themselves.

3. Don’t ask too many questions

Sometimes, instead of overwhelming a child with a series of questions such as “Where were you?”, “What were you doing?”, “How was it?”, you can show your attention by, for example, saying “I’m glad you’re back!”. Keep in mind that the most commonly asked question after a child comes home from a party is “Did you have fun?”. Kids see it as a demanding expectation that they needed to have a good time. If they didn’t, they need to deal not only with their own disappointment, but also their parents’.

4. Take your time when giving answers

While growing up, kids often ask many questions: “Where does the rainbow come from?”, “Why can’t children do what they want?”, “Do you need to go to college?”. Let’s remember to not pressure ourselves to give immediate, satisfying answers. You can encourage a child to do some brainwork by letting him search for answers or coming up with his own opinions. The process of looking for an answer is as valuable as the answer itself. Of course, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reply to those questions at all – children simply want to learn more about the subjects they’re interested in. Let’s allow them, however, to sometimes try harder and look for the answers themselves. If the matter is essential, we can always come back and help them out.

5. Encourage children to learn from the experience of others

Another essential part is encouraging children to use the knowledge and experience of other people. It’s also a good way of diminishing the feeling of being dependent on one’s family. It teaches the child she can gain knowledge from sources other than her parents. A dentist might explain what happens to the teeth that are not brushed, a shoe salesman can explain the results of wearing shoes that are too tight, and so on. More often than not, it’s those external sources of information rather than talks with their parents that are more insightful for children, so let’s make a good use out of them.

6. Don’t take away the hope

We owe many life pleasures to dreams, fantasies, waiting and planning. By trying to prepare a child for the possibility of failure we rob them of crucial experiences. This is a good moment to tell a story of a certain father. His 9-year-old daughter was fascinated by horses. She once asked her dad if he could buy her a real horse. He’s admitted it took him a lot of strength to say it was out of the question because of the money, the place, the legal regulations, etc. Instead, he simply said “So you’d like to have your own horse? Tell me more about it”. He then listened to many details provided by the girl – how she would feed, clean and ride it. Just the process of talking about her dreams seemed enough.  She hasn’t asked him any more questions about it since then. After the conversation, she borrowed books about horses, started sketching them and saving up money to one day buy a land and a stable. A few years later, she was working as a volunteer in the nearby stable so that she could ride horses. At the age of 14, her interests changed and one day she announced she’ll use the saved up money to buy a bicycle. 😊


Gosia/translated by Konrad

article based on the book Faber Adele and Mazlish Elaine “How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk”

image source : https://pixabay.com/pl/