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How to encourage independence in children

Updated: Feb 26

a cute girl sitting on the beach sand while playing with sand

You’ve never been challenged until that comes from your own flesh and blood. There is just something about hearing the word ‘no’ from a 30-lbs, 3-inch human, that just doesn’t feel right. After all, for the greater part of these few years you’ve cleaned their butt, wiped snot and essentially saved that tiny human from several dangerous adventures.

But to what end? For the child to come around and dictate to you what s/he wants?

Don’t get me wrong, I admire my daughter’s resilience and strength to tell you (no matter who you are) what she likes and wants. But encouraging independence, and inevitably growth can be a little hard for a parent (at least, it is for me).

Why is encouraging independence in children important?

No matter how difficult it may be for you, it is critical for your child's development. Several studies have shown that it fosters self confidence, resilience, problem-solving ability and mental health in the child.

So even if it seems hard for you, it is for the best and works out for everyone in the long run. An independent child also frees up some time for you, the parent to work on other aspects of life.

5 ways to cope with encouraging independence in children

If you’re finding the transition from baby to preschooler awkward, then let’s delve into how we can cope with that. Here is a list of what you can do when encouraging independence in children, especially during the transition from baby to preschooler:

  1. Support your child’s independence. Yes, they may make a mess when completing a task themselves, or it may take some time for him/her to get it, but stand back, support from the sidelines and watch your child tackle the big girl/boy tasks.

  2. Be patient. It may take him/her some time to truly get the gist of how a particular task is to be done. Be patient in your teaching/training and when s/he makes a mistake. Nothing turns a child off from training more than being chided too much for a simple mistake. Remember they are still learning so what is easy for you will take them some getting used to.

  3. Give them choices. Not only do you want to encourage your child’s physical ability but also his independent thinking. Ask a question: “Would you like to wear these shoes or those shoes?” If something isn’t a question, make a statement: “You need to put away your toys before we can go outside.”

  4. Engage and interact with your child. Be intentional about including your child in activities around the house. Don’t dismiss him/her when s/he offers to help you. When making dinner, set up a section on the counter for him/her to help you with something… it may seem minor to you but it means the world to your child.

  5. Respect your child as a person. Yes, you’re the adult in the relationship but that doesn’t give you the right to be a bully in your child’s life. Encourage his/her individuality and train him/her to also be respectful of others. Children have rights too… no matter how we are sometimes cultured to believe otherwise.

Tips to encourage independence in children

  1. Assign simple household tasks

  2. Don't over-correct mistakes

  3. Don't hover - give them space to just be

  4. Let your child help you

  5. Praise appropriate behaviour

  6. Be enthusiastic and remain positive

Final Thoughts: Time to let go

And just like that you’re a supportive parent encouraging your child’s independence! Easier said than done, right? I know; but give it a try… start small and keep working to increase your trust in your child’s abilities. S/he can only be better for it.

Your first instinct may always be to intervene and help to protect your child, but that can be to your child’s detriment. It will be messy, they will make mistakes but at the end of the day, encouraging their independence is how they learn and is all for the best.

Remember that a part of being a parent is knowing and accepting when it’s time to let go.


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