Raising a kid is no easy feat. Between all of the cramped schedules, spontaneous messes, and seemingly boundless energy, it’s perfectly normal to find ourselves practically micromanaging our kids’ lives. After all, we’ve already been through all of this, right? We certainly know how to dress them better than they do themselves, how to make them a healthy snack, how to tie their shoes—doing these things for them gets us going more quickly and everybody wins, right?
Unfortunately, although it’s perfectly normal to fall into this rhythm, it can also hurt a child’s sense of independence, or stifle the formation of one altogether. Even with the best intentions, taking care of every detail of your child’s life can teach them that they don’t need to do anything themself, or condition them to prefer that you do everything, instead. Luckily, a few simple steps and principles can help make sure you teaching your child to be independent and act for themselves.
One important factor is communicating to your kid what you’re trying to accomplish, especially if it will be a shift away from what they’re accustomed to. This will cue them in that they should be expecting new experiences and responsibilities, which can be scary and uncomfortable should they appear spontaneously.
A key point to communication isn’t just getting the point across, it’s how we get the point across. Independence is a good, positive trait—and you should promote it as such! Try saying, “you’re a big kid now and ready for big kid jobs” rather than “you’re not a baby anymore.” If independence is projected as discipline for bad behavior, your kid likely won’t be as open to the experience.
Sure, you can get your toddler into their pants faster than they can, and those 10 minutes are extremely valuable in your hectic morning routine, but you aren’t going to be able to dress your kid forever, and at some point, they’re going to have to know that.
Encourage your kid to take on responsibilities such as getting dressed, brushing their teeth, making their bed, grabbing a healthy snack, etc. Even better, ask your kid what sort of responsibilities they feel they’re ready to take on. If they feel ready, chances are they’ll be more motivated to stick to it.
Again, you may very well need those 10 extra minutes that it takes your kid to get dressed on their own, but those 10 minutes are a small price to pay in order to foster an independent thinking process. Instead of being 10 minutes late every day, wake your kid up 10 minutes earlier!
In general, you know that your kid won’t be making the exact same decisions that you might, and they certainly won’t be doing things as efficiently as you. Plan around this! If your child is going to be reaching for snacks on their own, make sure to keep the healthy ones in reach and the not-so-healthy ones a little bit further up in the cabinets. They don’t have your hand-eye coordination, they’re going to drop and spill things when taking on tasks for themselves. Make sure to communicate that these accidents happen to everyone, and maybe keep foods and ingredients you’d rather not end up on the floor out of reach, too.
Giving our kids this little bit of space to breathe and fend for themselves can be difficult, especially since all we want is for them to be safe and healthy. It can be scary, but it’s important to remember that it’s a crucial part in teaching them to be more independent and, ultimately, more responsible.
Teaching your child to be independent is no easy task, but keep at it and remember that a routine works very well for enforcing ideas.
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