Unfortunately, young children rarely understand the concept of doing things on time and being responsible for their actions. So, parents often wonder how to make their kids independent in the right way, without using punishment. Luckily, you can guide your kids in the right direction with just a few practices and let them discover their own independence in their own way. Read on to know more about how to teach kids to be more independent.
Forget The Perfection
Accept that your kid won’t do the task well like what you expect. They are just starting to learn the basics about being independent and it isn’t easy, even for adults. Therefore, you should try to avoid scolding or putting your child down, even if they fail to do something quite simple. Be there to support, not without judging! Also, don’t make them think that failure at this time is a big issue. They will make mistakes and possibly repeat them despite your warnings. Just let your child know what they could have done better, but don’t connect the failure with it.
Give Them Responsibilities They Can Handle
Your kid does not need to start dealing or knowing about big decisions yet. Independence needs to begin from the self and that is where you can help your kid. So, if you are planning a picnic, give your child a simple task such as making a list of necessary items or packing their own bag.
Avoid Too Much Intervene
Many parents confuse guidance with hand-holding and constantly interfere with their child’s actions whenever they start to do something a bit wrong. At early ages, you should focus on guiding your child with some instructions or open-ended suggestions. However, these should only inform them of the possibility and how the task can be completed in an easier way. As your child grows up, let them come to you if they need help, rather than intervening immediately.
Introduce Choices (with Limited Options)
Asking your child what they would like to eat at a restaurant can get quite overwhelming or time-consuming sometimes since the menu is normally expansive. Instead, pick a couple of dishes from the menu you think they might like and ask them to choose among those. Starting off with a limited array can help your child make up their mind easier and prepare them for newer ones.
On the one hand, when it comes to more difficult situations. For instance, you prefer to have your child do their homework before they can play. But, your child wants to play first and then finish the homework. In this case, you should allow your child some freedom in smaller aspects. Give them options and the ability to negotiate. As long as your kid does what they promise, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Most kids do best when they have routines in place. Establish clear routines that will help your child know what to do next without asking for help all the time. Children can have trouble making decisions for themselves if they don’t think sequentially. This can be easily handled by establishing a fixed routine for them. Once your kid knows what needs to be done on a particular task, they will start doing it all by themselves.
Honestly, saying “Clean your room!” or “Get ready for school!” is a bit vague for children. Kids with short attention spans or those who have just started learning need specific action steps that explain exactly what they need to do. So, you should break down those bigger commands into small steps like “Can you start by putting all of your rubbish in the bin. Then, take out the trash, please!”
In addition, making an introduction that explains each step can also help to increase your child’s independence easier. For toddlers who can’t read yet, you can draw pictures that show them what to do step-by-step. You certainly don’t want to create one for every little task. But, pick one or two things you want your child to start doing independently and create a checklist to guide them. And, if they’re struggling, you can tell them to check their chart, rather than remind them of each step. Eventually, they’ll remember to check the chart on their own.
Shape Their Behavior
Whether you want your 5-year-old to learn how to calm down when they’re upset, or you want your teenager to know how to prepare dinner for the family, remember to shape their behavior one step at a time. Show them what to do. Then, guide them as they try to do it on their own in the right manner. Also, remember to give positive feedback when they’re on track. And, redirect them when they’re headed down the wrong path.. The key is to reinforce their behavior one step at a time as they learn new skills.
Earning a reward might be incentive enough to help motivate them to be responsible. For older children, you should offer a weekly reward. Because if you offer a reward that requires a period of time to do, the chance that your kid might mess up on day two and just give up immediately. Instead, consider giving the same reward after doing something for non-consecutive days. No matter what type of incentive or reward plan you choose, it should be fair and worth their efforts.
When your kid grows older, you can make them more responsible by using contracts on some activities. Create one and ask your child to sign it as well. After that, let your child ask questions and review the rules together. Make it clear that you will allow for more freedom and independence only if your child follows the rules and that these privileges can be removed if your child doesn’t follow the guidelines.
Allow Natural Consequences Sometimes
While there will be times when you need to follow through with logical consequences, like taking away your kid’s phone, there will also be times when natural consequences make the most sense. For example, if your child forgets to pack their soccer cleats, don’t deliver the forgotten shoes to practice. Instead, allow your child to have to sit on the sidelines during practice or bring them back home, so they can do it themselves. Natural consequences are excellent teachers. And, your child will surely remember to do better next time.
The Bottom line
Every child matures at a slightly different rate. So, don’t be too discouraged when one of your kids seems like they are less independent than usual. With a little extra support and guidance from you, they can learn the skills and gain the confidence they need to start doing more things on their own.
We know that teaching kids to be independent can be a bit tricky at times. But, it not only makes life easier for you but also gives your kid a foundation to develop better in the future. Try to not nag your kids. Instead, give them directions. Then, let your child show that they can be independent. We hope these strategies can help your kid gain freedom and earn more responsibility one small step at a time.