By Carol Surya, author, psychologist, game developer and workshop facilitator. Her practical parenting book, ParentMagic – Raising Kids stems from experience gained over the last 20 years working with children and their parents worldwide. You will find her company, Raising Kids Positively on Jozikids and Kznkids
All children have a wealth of inner wisdom, creativity and problem-solving potential, if only we give them a chance to use them. Once you step back and allow more chances for independence, you’ll be amazed at just how capable they are.
As our kids grow up, independence is essential for them to be able to make sensible choices and responsible decisions. The more the world demands of them, the more they’ll be expected to manage themselves without your help, relying on their own inner qualities and resources. The more practice they get from a young age, the more self-assured, empowered and capable they’ll be later.
When we trust and value our children enough to let them arrive at their own conclusions, they learn from their own mistakes. This is often harder for us as adults (to stand by and encourage them without ‘taking over’), as it is for them as kids. I’ve noticed that given half the chance, children will jump at the chance to grow in independence and prove their capabilities. We all know how four year olds shout out “I’ll do it by myself” and even have a melt down when we take over and do simple tasks (like putting the tomato sauce on their chips) for them. They’re often striving for opportunities to become more independent. So let’s have a look at how you can encourage this great quality and confidence booster.
Tips for strengthening independence
- avoid giving solutions to questions immediately – rather encourage them to think (e.g. “That’s a good question, what do you think?”)
- offer choices – it shows respect and lets them practice decision-making
- encourage decision-making without telling them what you would do (offer various ideas, and possible consequences of choices)
- avoid speaking and answering for them – this takes away their courage to try new things. Give them a chance to speak
- encourage creative thinking in figuring out ways to do things (e.g. “How else could you do it?”)
- involve them in simple household chores from an early age – it’s an easy way to build independence and learn responsibility and self-discipline.
If you’re in doubt as to whether your kids can do something without your help, give it a try. Use words to guide and encourage them, while standing by and watching how they tackle the task. At first they may want you to help them, yet if you keep encouraging (believing in their potential), and only help with words, they’ll soon believe in themselves too. Remember when kids are given the chance to manage themselves and become inwardly directed, their confidence blossoms and they can approach the world with confidence.