Photo credit: Charlein Gracia
Raising kids to be independent and responsible is one of the most important jobs any parent can undertake. Kids who view themselves as able to take care of themselves are likely to experience more happiness and success. So how can you ensure that your children have this sense of self?
Although your overall parenting style certainly has an impact, there are also some specific things you can do. Here are some general guidelines to start out with. Regardless of the ages of your kids, these tips are great for encouraging them to become independent.
General Guidelines For Raising Independent Children
Provide love and guidance. By creating an atmosphere of security and support, you help your children to feel safe about taking sensible risks and exploring their options. Be consistent about household rules and encourage your kids to achieve in areas that are meaningful for them.
Extend praise and rewards judiciously. Many studies show that it's more constructive to offer praise for effort than for outcomes or inherent qualities like being smart. Your kids are likely to work harder and experience less anxiety.
Understand the benefits of authoritative parenting. Authoritative parents permit their kids to make their own decisions and experience the consequences. This gives kids more opportunities to learn and grow compared to having everything decided for them.
Work as a team. Be demanding and responsive. Invite input from your kids and respect their views. Learn to give and take when planning family meals or making sure homework gets completed.
Be a good role model for the relationship between freedom and responsibility. Demonstrate how self-discipline builds a foundation of independence. Set a good example by respecting the rights of others.
Evaluate your intentions. It's easy to project our own needs onto our kids. Learn to listen so you'll know if your child really wants to play soccer or take advanced calculus.
Strategies to Encourage Independence in Younger Children
Let your child take charge of easy tasks. From an early age, encourage your kids to start brushing their teeth on their own or setting the table. Each task they master will give them more confidence for tackling bigger things.
Offer simple choices. Ask your child if they want to clean their room before or after dinner. That way either decision is a winner.
Help your child discover their own sources of motivation. Intrinsic motivation is more reliable than depending on others for incentives. Help your children find their own reasons for giving their best efforts.
Create the conditions for success. Positive outcomes reinforce good behavior. Make the first attempts to dress themselves easier by buying shoes with Velcro fasteners or shirts with big button holes.
Strategies to Encourage Independence in Older Children
Expect to be challenged. Most teens still want close relationships with their parents but are also feeling eager about becoming adults. Meanwhile, they're contending with rapid physical and social changes, as well as some apprehension about these new life experiences. Be prepared for more moodiness and conflicts.
Create safety agreements. You may need to protect teens from clear dangers as they move towards adulthood. One obvious example is avoiding driving and drinking. Agree that they can always call you for a ride with no fear of punishment.
Discuss values. Teens will look to their peers for fashion advice but they still need your guidance on moral and ethical issues. Respect their growing maturity and discuss the complex issues that come along with getting more privileges like driving and dating.
Fostering independence is a precious and lasting gift you can give your child. Offering this to them will help them develop self esteem and achieve their goals. Our sense of freedom often depends more on our mind than on our environment. Give your child an early start in building the confidence and self discipline necessary to live independently.