Building Independence – Helpful Ideas.
Michael Grose is the founder and author of an interesting monthly blog, Parenting Ideas. He is one of Australia’s leading parenting educators. He’s also the author of 10 books for parents including Thriving! and the best-selling Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It.
This month he has written a helpful article on building independence in children. Here are his 12 points to consider.
1. “Never regularly do for a child the things a child can do for him or herself”
This is perhaps the original parenting-for-independence manifesto, and it’s a philosophy that guides many teachers and parents today. In effect, this sentence means that wherever possible we give children the skills and competencies to look after themselves physically and emotionally.
2. Is this something you can do?”
Independence takes many forms but perhaps the most common is the development of self-help skills. The confidence, pride and, for most, sheer pleasure that kids get from doing the simple things for themselves such a toddler tying his shoelaces or a child making his own lunch, is immeasurable.
3.“Have you checked the help roster today?.
A great way to develop a sense of independence is to give kids opportunities to help out at home. There is no need to overburden children with jobs, but a sensible allocation of chores according to their age and study requirements is not only a great help to you, but fantastic training for them.
4.“Which of these two would you prefer?”
Parents as wise leaders need to call the shots on how the family life is conducted and health and welfare issues such as appropriate bed and bath times. Some things are not up for negotiation. But there are areas where parents can rightfully hand autonomy to children and say, ‘It’s your call!’
5.“How can you make this happen?”
Kids get used to bringing their problems to parents to solve. If you keeping solving them, they’ll keep bringing them.
6.“We rely on you to do this?”
Reliability is closely connected to responsibility and other aspects of independence. Every child over the age of five, at the eldest, should do something that someone else relies on whether it’s looking after a pet, clearing the meal table or emptying the garbage on a regular basis.
7.“What can you learn for next time?”
Learning from mistakes is part of the independence-building process for children. Often adult impatience or unwillingness to put up with errors prevents us from giving kids the chance to do things for themselves or take real responsibilities.
8. How do you feel about this?”
An often, over-looked aspect of independence is the ability to self-manage your emotional state. Emotional self-management starts with the recognition of how you feel about a particular event or action and then labelling that feeling.
9.“When you muck up, you make up?”
Kids of all ages will make mistakes. In fact, mucking up is part of the learning process. But kids will just repeat their mistakes unless they experience the consequences of their decisions.
10.“How will you fix this?”
Independent kids are usually socially-smart kids who don’t operate in a bubble. They know that their behaviour impacts on others they are mindful of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of others. They also make amends or restore relationships when their behaviour impacts negatively on others.
11. “You need to do what’s right, not what’s easy.”
A sense of integrity is important for a child’s independence because it’s the basis of reasoned and socially focused self-control and self-management. The job of parents is to move their children from ‘Me’ to ‘We’.
12. “Let’s find a way to make this happen.”
One of the ways to develop independence is to work with them to build their skills and abilities to safely navigate an ever-broadening environment outside of the relative safe confines of their home. Ideas include adults and kids doing things together such as catching public transport until they are ready to go it alone or with friends; and giving kids smaller freedoms that lead to bigger liberties such as allowing a young child to walk part of the way to school on their own and then extending the distance as they get more experience and feel more confident.
These are some great ideas for you to think about and try sometime.
Stage 3 Leader