In this day and age, it is easy to want to protect and shield our children from the hardships of life. At times, this can lead to unintentionally hindering a child’s ability to develop independence. When children are encouraged to work through a task independently, they develop critical thinking skills, perseverance, and the ability to handle frustration and failure. Many times, we go to great lengths to prevent a child from having to experience the disappointment of failing. It can be painful to watch; however, experiencing frustration helps children to develop emotional resilience (Patz, n.d.). Rather than view a difficult situation as a source of suffering, try to view it as an opportunity for growth.
There are many ways you can encourage independence in your child:
- Break complex tasks into simple steps. For example, making the bed requires a great deal of planning. To help the child learn this process, walk the child through each step by demonstrating the process and explaining each step. Have the child perform the final step (e.g., placing the stuffed animals on the bed). Each time you complete the step, add another step until the child is completing the entire process independently.
- Set small goals and celebrate small successes. It is important to remember to set reasonable goals. Endeavors that seem to be a small challenge to us may be a huge obstacle for your child. Keep this in mind as you work on a new skill. For example, if you have determined that you want your child to walk to class independently, rather than require them to complete the entire task on the first try, set small goals. The parent may walk the child halfway down the hall, and the child will walk the rest of the way independently.
- Teach and model positive self-talk. It is very difficult to learn perseverance. Therefore, it has to be modeled and reinforced. Providing statements, such as “I think I can, I think I can” or “Try, try again”, that children can say to themselves helps them to regulate throughout a difficult task.
- Celebrate the effort put into a task. Studies have demonstrated the impact praise can have on performance. When children are praised for qualities over which they have little control (e.g., intelligence) rather than the effort put forth, performance suffers (Patz, n.d.). Praising for effort encourages a child to work hard and persevere through difficult tasks.
- Frequent praise and encouragement keep children focused more than corrections will. In order to succeed, a child has to believe they have the ability to grow and learn. Reminders of what they could have done better, without praise for what was done well, only deflates the spirit and could result in learned helplessness on future endeavors (Patz, n.d.).
Although it can be hard, all parents want to see their children grow in their independence. It is a bittersweet moment when a parent knows that it is time to let go despite your heart telling you to hold on. Letting go allows new doors to open and new wonders to be experienced. Our children are capable of much more than we often think. “When we take our kids seriously, they take themselves seriously, rise to the occasion, and grow in maturity (Jacobson, 2014).”
- Jacobson, M. (2014). Teaching kids to work hard. Retrieved from: http://matthewljacobson.com/2014/06/17/teaching-kids-work-hard/
- Patz, A. (n.d.). Failure is an option. Retrieved from: http://www.parents.com/kids/development/behavioral/failure-is-an-option/