How independent are your kids? Would you like them to be more self sufficient? Of course, your ultimate goal is to raise your children to thrive and succeed in the world independently. You want them to grow into competent, capable, responsible individuals who not only excel in their personal lives but also contribute positively to their families and communities. But raising independent kids is challenging and exhausting.
It’s exhausting because you often feel like you are doing everything and that they’ll never grow up! It’s challenging because sometimes you find it quicker to just do things yourself. But that’s not the answer. Raising independent kids is critical, so let’s look at a practical three-step approach to fostering independence in our kids.
Step 1: Taking Stock of Their Independence
Before you start on the journey of fostering independence in your kids, it is essential to assess their current level of independence. Every child is unique and they already show varying degrees of independence based on their age, personality, and upbringing. By taking stock of their existing skills, you’ll identify areas where they are thriving and areas that require further development.
Observe your child’s behavior and consider the following questions: Can they complete basic chores? Can they take care of their clothing, rooms, belongings? Are they capable of making simple decisions? Write down all they ways they are independent. And be specific!
As you recognize their skills, offer them encouragement and praise for those skills. When you encourage a skill your child responds by repeating it more often. One of the best ways to help them grow more independent is through authentic praise.
Step 2: Making a List of Desired Independence Skills
Once you have assessed their current level of independence, it is time to make a list of desired independent skills you would like them to acquire. You could even include your kids when you create this list. Ask them what things they would like to do more independently. You may be surprised at their responses!
The skills should be age-appropriate and in-line with their developmental phase. However, it is essential to remember that each child progresses at their own pace, so do not set unrealistic expectations. Again, ask your kids what skills they think they are ready to learn.
Brainstorm tasks and responsibilities that are suitable for your child’s age. For younger kids, it could be tidying up their toys or picking out their clothes. For older kids, it could involve preparing their own breakfast or managing their homework schedule. Maybe it’s time for your kids to start doing their own laundry or preparing dinner for the family. Consider the skills that contribute to their overall growth and build their confidence.
Step 3: Focusing on Chosen Independent Skills
With the list of desired independent skills in hand, it is time to choose a few key skills to focus on. For younger kids, you’ll make the selection based on their developmental needs. However, for older kids, it is essential to involve them in the decision-making process.
Don’t skip this step. By giving them a choice in which skills they want to work on, they will feel more engaged and motivated to take ownership of their independence.
Once the skills are chosen, create a plan and establish a consistent routine. Break down the skills into manageable steps, providing guidance and support as needed. Celebrate small victories and milestones along the way, reinforcing their sense of accomplishment and independence.
Ensure that your kids have the necessary knowledge and understanding of these tasks. Ask your kids to explain the tasks so you understand what they already know. Take time to teach them step-by-step, demonstrating and explaining how each task is accomplished. Some families use “beginner,” “intermediate” and “expert” as ways to describe how independently their kids complete tasks. When a child is a beginner they get some help, when they are intermediate they get guidance and when they are an expert they complete the task alone.
Patience is key during this process, kids make mistakes and/or require repeated guidance. Remember, making mistakes is how we learn.
You must also be willing to let go of control and release your expectations. It can be challenging to watch your kids struggle or perform tasks differently than you would, but allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them is part of their independence journey.
Raising independent kids is a rewarding and worthwhile endeavor. By taking stock of their current level of independence, making a list of desired skills, and focusing on selected tasks, you nurture competent, capable, and responsible contributors to the family. Remember that independence is a gradual process, and each child will progress at their own pace. With patience, guidance, and a supportive environment, you’ll empower your kids to become self-sufficient individuals who confidently navigate life’s challenges
Three Easy Steps To Raising Independent Kids
By Lisa Reichelt, M. Ed., Parent Coach