Sometimes as parents we tend to block the way to our child’s independence by satisfying their needs with a ready to serve platter – ready to eat, ready to wear; even ready to read or do more for your child (some of us do their homework as well).
But is this healthy?
Most of us don’t think so! But inadvertently it is often stymied by well-intentioned, but misguided parents.
Being independent – Why it is so important?
In today’s fiercely competitive world, children need to be smart, self reliant and independent right from their formative years.
Being independent gives children the freedom to experience life fully and learn its many important lessons. If guided properly, it helps them find activities that are meaningful and satisfying.
Independent children are also capable of taking care of themselves, especially in situations when the guardian is not present. They have a belief that they are competent and can recognize ways to manage a task or situation present.
For instance, kindergartners feel a sense of accomplishment, when for the first time they pull up their socks on or tie their shoes laces without any help. It may sound a petty task, but all the practice and hard work pays off with that ‘one little job’ well done.
Apart from boosting their pride, anything that they do independently also exhilarates their self esteem. This process of separation prepares children for the inevitable demands of adulthood.
Hence, as parents one of your primary goals as a parent is to raise children who become independent and self-reliant people. Of course they will still depend on you for love, protection, guidance, and support, but when a child’s confidence is coupled with healthy self-esteem, their next progressive step is to find greater control and face newer challenges in life.
What age to begin?
Well, there is no age criterion as such, but experts suggest that you can start as early as a baby by not holding their milk bottle while feeding.
The crucial period begins at the age of 3-4 years when they can begin to manage certain responsibilities if you allow them the opportunity eg: brushing their teeth, keeping things in place etc. A kid of 5-6 years should be able to wear and take off his own clothes, fill water bottles, place their shoes in the rack neatly and should be most importantly toilet trained.
By the age of 8-10, they should not need an elders help in doing their school work, folding and keeping back their clothes, and arranging their wardrobes or study tables.
In preteens, children should be efficient enough to go out and do little grocery at the nearby store or make instant noodles in the microwave if you are away (microwaves are pretty safe if you have told them how to operate).
Inculcate gradually but steadily
Nothing happens overnight as there is no magic wand in real life. Take baby steps with babies and don’t expect them to learn it in the first instance.
Do small chores
- Like transferring the breakfast cereals from the carton to the jar
- Making easy drinks for friends
- Dusting the room or clearing the table after meals
- Preparing school bag for the next day
- Allow them to have their say in deciding what clothes to wear, or
- Which hobby class to join during school break
- Be not in a hurry to do things for your child
- Respect their decision and all along make them understand the impact of their choices
- Teach them problem solving skills and encourage them to think how they can fix it rather than giving the solution instantly
- When in a mixed group, ask the elder one to take care of the younger ones and make him responsible by announcing him to be the “leader”
- Trust your children’s capability to do certain age appropriate tasks
- Don’t let your children lose hope when they mess up; give refresher notes and let them take charge once again.
Go shopping alone
- Give them small amounts and let them do some shopping for themselves
- Nothing expensive but usual stationary items or other small things
- This will teach them the basics of money transaction like counting notes, calculating the amount and taking back change
Kids brought up to be independent make responsible individuals and it goes a long way in their lives. A parent’s contribution is instrumental and pivotal in making them self sufficient and resilient¸ which can be achieved only when they give them time, space, trust and responsibilities to carry on their own.