One of the most empowering acts of parenting is providing our children the conditions to flex their independence - capable of making choices and decisions that foster confidence, trust and sense of responsibility.
Unintentionally, there are times when we encourage and create quite the opposite affect. From jumping in every time to tie their shoes just to get out the house faster, picking up the clothes that are lying on the floor of their room, putting their school books back into their backpacks at the end of homework time or perhaps fetching the toy they've been tantruming over.
Here are 3 things you can implement daily to encourage and build your child's independence.
1. Train the Behavior: take some downtime and identify the areas in your routine with your child where you can implement age-appropriate responsibility & ownership. Once you've done so, talk to your child about the new approach. It's never a good idea to spring on something new without context. Most adults don't appreciate or respond well to an "out of the blue" change and our children are no different. Begin little by little introducing to your child your updated expectations. Designate time to literally model and train the new behavior. For example: Teaching your child to bring their plate to the sink once they're done with their meal or having your 5 year old sit next to you and fold the towels from the laundry.
2. Create Buy-In: Aren't you more invested in something when you come up with the "great idea"? Our kids are equally more excited and committed to follow through on something when they've been given the opportunity to "come up with the idea." Provide opportunities for your child, under age appropriate parameters, to chime in with some suggestions on an activity, event or situation that involves them. For example: It's game night and your child gets to pick 1 of the 3 possible games of the evening OR in setting up 1:1 time with your child, allow him/her to pick what you'll be doing together.
3. Allow for Consequences: It's hard to see our kids struggle. Even though stepping in to "fix it" seems innocent and well intentioned, the results in doing so severely dampen their journey to independence. We need to allow our children to experience the cause & effect of their choices and be able to take on whatever that consequence looks like. The natural consequence of choices has a powerful tool in our human experience and survival. It is a vital component to our personal development and for some reason we've intervened by creating an exception to this rule within the dynamics of parenting. The experiential effect of consequences is a necessary and palpable element to our children's learning and growth towards independence. Resist the urge to referee a fight between siblings. With advance notice, let them know you will not be stepping in to see who's right. Instead, you expect them to come get you once they've worked it out and can tell you what solution they came up with. Instead of readily dropping off at school the forgotten books on the kitchen counter, allow for the natural consequence between your child and the teacher. Separately follow up with your child to come up with a plan on how to remember their books or homework.
I'd love to hear when you've given any of these tips a try. Drop me a note on how it's all going. Enjoy the week ahead.
Stay motivated and inspired to PARENT DIFFERENTLY.
Your best self and parent is waiting!