As parents, we watch our children grow up before our eyes. Every day they are learning and trying new things. We want to prevent them from growing up too fast, but recognize the importance of gained independence little by little.
Below are 3 of our top tips to encourage healthy independence in children:
- Set a good example
Young children learn acceptable behavior from parents. When we get anxious, they get anxious. When we are calm and relaxed, they are likely to be as well. Children look to us to figure out how to handle situations. When a child takes a small fall we can react by making the situation seem worse than it is, thus causing the child to cry more than they would have otherwise. Or we could say, “Oh you’re ok. Let’s get back up and play!” Then, the child would understand that they are not hurt and there is nothing to be upset about.
By making children feel safe and teaching them how to be safe, we can encourage them to not feel like they need their hand held every day and night.
The same goes for saying goodbye. Young children get anxious about the thought of being separated from parents. It’s up to us to let them know that they are in a safe place and that we will be back together again very soon. Speak in a cheerful tone when saying goodbye and let them know how much fun they are going to have with the babysitter or other kids at daycare.
- Reward them without spoiling them
Children, like adults, want and need positive encouragement. As human beings, we like to have other people notice when we do something well to let us know we are on the right track. While external rewards, such as handing out chocolate for each accomplishment, can do more harm than good over time, there are more subtle ways to encourage good behavior and confidence in children.
Don’t let “bribery” become an ongoing pattern as it can cause your child to misbehave in order to get what they want. When kids start to expect something extra for completing daily responsibilities for instance, a false sense of entitlement can develop.
Instead, help them find personal satisfaction in the things they do such as a newly learned skill or a job well done. Praise your child’s efforts and successes by saying something as simple as, “You did a great job getting yourself ready for school today and you did it all by yourself like a big boy/girl!”
- Give them the right tools
Better yet, give them tools they actually want to use. Turning a boring routine into a game can change the child’s entire attitude about the task at hand. Sometimes, just having a friend to do things with can mean the difference between failure and success. The idea of having to do things by themselves can be a big turn off for children especially if we are talking a less than desirable task. Often, parents reluctantly need to turn themselves into a permanent audience and reinforcement providers in order to help the child move through the tasks of the day. Virtual time companions such as Kazu and friends provide a great alternative for parents who want to help their child become more independent.