When children are young, adults guide and set boundaries. It may be a teacher in school that directs the children during the day, or it may be a parent that guides the children in the evenings and weekends.
As the children develop, they need to gradually learn to become independent so that they will be ready to be on their own (when going off to college or moving into their own homes). This process should start young in the childs life. Teaching independence is something that can be done easily and seamlessly when you know ways to incorporate the lessons into everyday life. Here are a few suggestions to promote independence, based on my experiences as a parent.
Teach your child to pick up after themselves. This can be as simple as picking up toys after they are done playing. Or it can be putting their plate in the dishwasher after dinner. These small things encourage independence. And teach good life skills starting at a young age. These tasks are parts of daily life and everyone should be capable of accomplishing them.
Riding a Bicycle
Another activity that promotes independence is riding a bicycle. Not only does it give your child physical mobility, it gives them a sense of freedom. No one else is making the bike move but them. It also allows your child to see and experience for themselves the rewards of hard work. They will discover that the more work they puts into pedaling, the farther the bike will travel.
Choosing Clothes to Wear
As your child gets older, allow them to pick out their clothes for the day. This will help your child learn to make decisions. It is only when the outfit does not match well that I make a suggestion. (Think camouflage print pants with a striped shirt). If they still want to go with that combination, thats their choice. This not only helps the child learn independence, but helps them gain confidence is who they are and understand how to express themselves starting at a young age.
Picking the Activity
When filling the day with activities give your child options. Present them with three to four different activities and let them decide how they want to spend their time. This teaches them how to realize what they enjoy doing as well as how to choose what they want out of a grouping of good options. Try to focus on what they want to do and not have them throw out the options they dont want. You want to keep the outlook positive.
Deciding What to Eat
When you go out to eat, let your child have a choice in what to get. Of course, you, as the adult, will have to set some general guidelines. For example, when we visit Yumz Frozen Yogurt in Chicago Illinois, it provides a great opportunity for choice. Allowing your child to choose the yogurt flavor and the toppings will give them a chance to think independently. I like to give my older kids an option of one large portion of topping or two smaller portions of two different toppings. They learn about making independent choices and see the results of those choices.
One of if not the most important role as parents is to prepare our children for life. Everyone’s goal is to raise confident self-aware children who know who they are and how to achieve what they want out of life. Teaching them to become independent is a gradual process but the rewards are great. Small activities like the ones mentioned above can start your child on the road to independence without them even realizing.