It’s often easier to just get on and do things for our children, rather than taking the time to teach them how to do it themselves. We are, in fact, doing them a disservice by micro-managing. It’s time to put aside being in control and hand off the baton of responsibility to our children. Let’s get started with four of the best ways to teach your child independence.
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There are a lot of ways we sub-consciously hinder our child’s independence. For the most part we’re not even aware that we’re doing it, but we justify it by saying it will be quicker, easier or less messy to do the job ourselves. Rest assured, it’s entirely normal and it is easily remedied with these 4 surefire ways to teach your child independence.
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How to Develop Your Child’s Independence
#1. Give Your Child Independence in Their Day-to-Day Routine
There is nothing worse than having to follow your child around reminding them to pick up their socks, wash their hands, do their homework, put on their shoes, get their schoolbag, brush their teeth…the list is endless, and it feels even longer when you have to repeat it time and again, day after day.
The flip-side of this is that it becomes repetitive and tedious for your child too, and often leads to them going slower, getting stroppy, doing it half-heartedly, or just plain going on strike!
So how can you avoid this pain on both fronts? Sit down with your child and make out a list of daily tasks to be completed. Tailor the list for the age of your child – it could be picture-based for under-fives, or a tick-the-box checklist for older ones.
Highlight the key tasks that need to be completed at different times of the day, for example:
- Morning: get dressed; have breakfast and clear up; brush teeth and hair; get shoes, coat and schoolbag ready
- After-school: wash hands; unpack lunchboxes; do homework
- Before bed: get into pyjamas; put dirty clothes in the laundry; get tomorrow’s clothes ready; brush teeth and hair; read a story
Let your child follow the list and get things done – it may not be the way you would do it, it may take a bit longer, but as long as things are moving in the right direction, take it as a success.
#2. Get Your Child Involved in the Household Chores
Children see their parents carrying out chores all day. By letting them pitch in, you are letting them know that they are a vital part of the family unit – and, believe it or not, children want to help. Get them started on the routine of lending a hand, and they can learn some responsibility and thrive on the independence.
The process of teaching your child how to help and what their limits are is a tough battle for both parent and child. It is best to ease the child in with simple tasks. Stay calm, and remember that although they are eager to learn they will mess up more than clean up at the beginning!
The two most important things are to keep positive and make it fun, while teaching them how to help. Keep them enthusiastic about helping, encourage rather than discourage – you can always remake the bed if needed. Remember to be realistic; it doesn’t have to be perfect straight away. Practice makes perfect after all. So, if you’re doing it all for them, you’re the only one learning. Praise their efforts far more than you correct them.
So where do you start, and what chores for what age? Start by downloading our list of 40 chores for kids depending on age that might be useful to print. Some examples of age-related chores you can implement straight away include:
- From 18 months onwards: help pick up toys; put things in the bin; wipe up little spills
- From 3 years onwards: help set the table; help sort laundry into colour loads; find items on the shopping list while at the supermarket; learn to pour drinks; match socks
- From 5 years onwards: help set and clear the table; help dust around the house (socks on hands are useful here); tidy their room; make their bed
- From 7 years onwards: help load the dishwasher or wash and dry dishes; fold clothes and put them away; wipe down surfaces; help put the shopping away
- From 10 years onwards: vacuuming; help prepare dinner; feed pets; do a load of washing; take out the bins.
#3. Teach Your Child About Financial Independence
Between birthdays, Christmas, pocket money, communions and other special occasions, some children are sitting on a treasure trove and this is a perfect opportunity to teach an important lesson. Knowing how to save and how to budget are essential skills we can teach our children, and what better way to encourage your child’s independence than to show them the benefits of a child-friendly, tailor-made savings system.
Children pick up good habits early, so why not set them on a sure financial footing by encouraging the habit of saving? Most financial institutions offer simple, charge-free deposit accounts for children. You can open them with a small amount of money, often as little as €1, but as with ‘grown up’ accounts, make sure you shop around for the best rates on offer.
The two main skills that children need to know when it comes to money – and the earlier, the better – is being able to identify the value of money and realise that sweets, magazines, toys and other items all have a price.
First things first, talk to your child about where money comes from, and that there is a certain amount available to your family each month which has to cover all the family’s needs. Explain that there are often choices to be made about what and when to buy something, and that some things are more important (eg, food, rent/mortgage, etc) than others (eg, toys, magazines, treats).
Once pocket money becomes a regular fixture in your house, try to offer your child some guidance on how best to save (or spend) this money. A great tip is to have two piggy banks (or even just glass jars) – one for spending money, and one for savings. When the latter reaches a certain amount, you could lodge it to their bank account.
When it comes to saving, your child needs to determine what they’re saving for, what they have to save to reach that goal, and how long it will take to save what’s needed. For example, if your child wants to buy a LEGO set which costs €40 and has €2 a week to put away, s/he will need to be aware of the length of time it will take to purchase – which is a big ask for a little kid, but an important lesson about rushing into a purchase. If mum and dad were paying for it, your child would snap it up in a flash; if they have to pay for it themselves, they are sure to be more selective about what they really want.
#4. Encourage Your Child to be Confident
Building confidence is an important factor in creating independent children. Kids who are confident and used to being shown some respect – as well as being given opportunities to make their own decisions from time to time – are in a much better position to resist peer pressure, and to feel confident about being an individual, sticking their neck out and being a bit different.
From an early age, kids need to be allowed to make some choices, and given praise and respect for the decisions they make. Parents also need to show respect when kids stand up for what they believe in – even if they are very young, or very wrong! Talking things through and guiding them in the right direction is much better than putting them down or making them feel foolish.
Children who are independent thinkers are not only less likely to be affected by peer pressure, but they are less likely to bully or be bullied because they are not afraid to be different, and to stand up for themselves.
Don’t panic, independence is a good thing. Your child will still need you for a million things every day, but starting your child on the path to independence is one of the best gifts you can give them.
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Have your say! How do you give your child independence? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!