Every parent hopes that their child will grow up to be a successful, independent adult.
However, in our time-starved and busy lives, many of us fall into the trap of helping our children with daily tasks – from the simplest wearing of clothes to the harder jobs of feeding or putting on their seatbelts.
How then do we help to cultivate a sense of independence in our kids?
Here are four practical strategies that you can consider:
#1 Provide choices
Have you ever watched a child play with their favourite toy, or make a beeline for their most adored person in the room? A child begins to have (and exert their) preferences from as young as a few months old.
You can thus support the formation of decision-making skills by offering your child age-appropriate choices.
Bear in mind though, you should only offer two to three options to younger children, so as not to confuse them. As your child grows, you may widen the range of choices available to three or four.
Giving your child ample opportunities to exercise choice provides them with the much-needed practice in wise decision-making.
#2 Affirm your child
In order for the seeds of independence to grow and take root, a child first needs confidence. One way to instil that confidence is to encourage and affirm them. Research has shown that children who are regularly affirmed have a greater sense of self-worth and experience more success in overcoming challenging situations. So, do make it a point to affirm your child daily.
You may praise their effort or attitude in doing something, or identify a blossoming character trait such as diligence or kindness. However you choose to do it, you will give your child a much-needed emotional boost if you do this regularly.
#3 Practise independent learning
One of the best ways to equip your child for the future is to emphasise lifelong learning. When it comes to their studies, every parent dreads having to nag at their children to complete their work. When this happens regularly enough, children can also become dependent on their parents to chase them – and forget about their work until the nagging starts!
Catch yourself before you fall into this unhealthy cycle.
Equip your child with the skills they need. Start by asking them to evaluate their current progress, and where they feel they need help. Have a frank discussion on the possible options – while tuition can be the answer for some, more regular revision, or even sourcing for online tutorials may be the answer for others.
Finally, get them to set their own goals that are related to effort and mastery of a subject, rather than focusing solely on grades. One example of a goal may be ‘to speak Mandarin daily at home’ rather than ‘to score 80% in the oral examination’.
When you engage your child in this manner, they will start to take ownership of their learning and are likely to be proactive about it as well.
#4 Teach life skills
In our society, it is not uncommon to have live-in helpers who take care of household matters. You need to consider how to strike a balance between a well-run home and giving your children the opportunity to pick up basic skills through doing household chores. Being able to practise these everyday skills will help your child gain independence. Where possible, begin building these habits from an early age. A toddler can be taught to put away their own toys, while older children can help with laundry, cleaning floors, setting the table at mealtimes and even acquire simple cooking skills.
A child does not become independent and self-reliant overnight. This is a gradual process that requires both time and intention. Try these practical tips on a regular basis, and add your own as you go along – you’ll find a confident, independent child under your wings in no time.
Written by Judith Xavier.
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