Updated: Nov 29, 2022
By Amy Conner
From an early age, independence should be cultivated in children to teach them self-motivation, increase their awareness of their surroundings, and encourage the self-fulfillment of their future needs. Of course, this isn’t instantaneous, and a lot of hard work is required from parents to instill that sense of comfort and responsibility very early on. In a study on the importance of promoting independence in young children, Anna Cerino describes that children with high independence levels also have increased confidence, self-esteem, and motivation. Because self-confidence motivates a child’s behavior and fosters a positive self-image, being independent can push children to achieve their goals. As such, parents are tasked to help their children exercise independence through different environmental situations.
While we know great parenting helps reinforce autonomy among children, it’s certainly a challenge to isolate which patterns can contribute to your child’s development. This is why it is crucial to recognize specific practices that can help your children grow self-confidence and excel despite failures.
Here are four ways you can build up your child’s independence:
Allow them to do simple tasks on their own
Bolstered by curiosity, it isn’t uncommon for your child to attempt certain actions on their own. In fact, parents should even encourage these activities, given that they're safe, as we explained in our post on ‘Tumbling Toddlers’. For instance, most young children are fascinated by small objects such as a ball. Parents can take a laundry basket and position it in front of their children. With that, allow your kid to put these balls inside, then remove them. While the act itself is important to develop motor skills, attaining success on the first try is not the goal you should seek for your child. Despite the result yielded, your child will retain the success or failure and learn to apply that in new or future situations.
Offer them choices
Offering young children choices not only lessens instances of power struggles between you and your child but also allows them to make their own decisions. These choices need not be complicated. In fact, you can let your child pick out something as easy as their snacks or which clothes they want to wear for the day. These details might seem small, but these choices will inevitably build their initiative to decide for themselves and introduce them to experiencing natural consequences. Not to mention, children can learn to develop preferences and become more responsible when complying to meet those wants.
Create a routine
Routines provide structure for young children. This allows them to move from one activity to the next, and because these tasks bear repeating patterns, it will be easier for children to fulfill these moving forward on their own. While routines do require repetition, parents must note that they shouldn’t be rigid. In the book The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies and Hiyoko Imai, they describe how routines need space for leniency. This means allowing your children opportunities to ask questions and explore their surroundings. By fostering a routine based on discovery and learning, your children will have the confidence to adapt to different situations.
Respect them as their own person
Although your children aren’t at the age to fully perceive the consequences of their actions— be it positive or negative— it’s critical to give them space to make mistakes, as well as consider their opinions. In the book mentioned above, Davies and Imai also discuss the significance of parents functioning as guides and not merely guardians. The distinction between the two roles lies in respect. As guides, parents should treat their children with respect. This can mean learning to negotiate clean-up rules, avoiding the use of hurtful language, or even providing positive reinforcement, as stated in a parenting guide by UNICEF. Parents can embody the latter by offering praise or rewards for good behavior. Parents can nurture and develop their children’s independence through two-way communication and mutual respect, as well as by equipping them with opportunities to decide on their activities and needs.
Exclusively written for https://www.firsttimeparentmagazine.com/ by Amy Conner.