Do you see your child’s independence growing daily? If so, you know it is not an easy journey of growth.
We celebrate independence on July 4th, at graduations, and on numerous other milestone occasions. Independence is worth celebrating because it brings freedom and hope, but it is also worth celebrating because it represents a battle of growth and achievement.
Raising independent kids is hard work. It takes foresight and a commitment to not jump in every time you think your child needs help. Are you ready for the battle? These strategies will arm you for the challenge of raising independent kids.
Teach Responsibility. Give your child clearly defined jobs and communicate what the consequences will be for not fulfilling those responsibilities. Of course, small children will have small responsibilities like picking up toys or feeding the dog, but the bigger the kid, the bigger the responsibility.
Require Accountability. Kids don’t like to admit when they are wrong; heck, no one does actually. We all try to protect ourselves from feeling like failures by blaming a person, bad luck, or unfairness–or the officials! But your children need to understand that if they can’t take responsibility for their achievements unless they are willing to own up to their mistakes.
Encourage Conviction. Help your children see that it’s okay to peacefully disagree with someone. Obviously, you must model helathy conflict, without yelling and blaming. But calmly arguing for something you believe in takes courage.
Ask for input. When you ask for your child’s advice on small tasks, he will learn that his opinion is important. Express your appreciation for his input.
Allow Boredom. It seems that boredom is a dirty word these days. But in reality, boredom can provide amazing opportunities for a child to reach within himself and find solutions. It is not your duty to always chase boredom away in your home. If you are always stepping in with boredom-buster ideas, you will rob your child of many growing opportunities.
Give your child alone time. Find ways to leave your child alone for small periods of time. This can start even in infancy when your child is talking to himself in the crib; don’t instantly rush in and pick him up. Let him self-soothe for a bit. Even after my kids outgrew naps, we’d have an afternoon quiet time where they were to read or play quietly in their rooms while mom had some alone time too.
Allow failure. I’ve preached this a lot when it comes to youth sports, but it is applicable in many other arenas too. Failure is one of life’s biggest teachers and when you rush in to protect your child from it, you are taking away another chance for your child to develop character and strength.
Encourage curiosity. Let your kids explore–safely of course–and encourage them to seek and explore. When your children are old enough and secure enough, nudging them out of their comfort zones will allow them to test their own capabilities and grow in independence.
Listen without judgement. Let your child express opinions and make decisions without immediately jumping on them if you disagree. At first the choices will be inconsequential, like what outfit to wear or what toy to play with. But as they grow, so will the decisions: what college should he attend or who should she date? Listening without judgement doesn’t mean you never give guidance or express your concerns, it just means that you don’t stand ready to attack as they speak.