One of the most important goals as a parent is to raise a child who is independent and can survive in the world by themselves. Here are 7 tips for giving your child independence.
As your children grow it becomes inevitable that they will one day flee the nest, so preparing them for the outside world is the best gift you can give them, and this means instilling independence, self-reliance and confidence in them as early as possible.
However one error that parents seem to make, is doing too much for their child, thus making them reliant and dependant in later life. Although this may be done with the best intentions, it is better to make them work for what they want.
Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator best known for her philosophy of child education has always valued the concept of letting the child learn practically. She believes that “education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment. It is true that we cannot make a genius. We can only give to each child the chance to fulfil his potential possibilities.”
Experimenting with Independence when young
Whilst most parents don’t believe in throwing their child in at the deep end, some believe that the sink or swim philosophy is necessary.
Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group has always been independent and thanks his parents for giving him the push he needed, although he may have had a different view at the time.
“My mother was determined to make us independent. When I was four years old, she stopped the car a few miles from our house and made me find my own way home across the fields. I got hopelessly lost.”
Sir Alan Sugar also had a similar upbringing although he wasn’t left in a field and told to find his way home, he was urged to earn the luxuries in life himself. Alan’s father was a thrifty man and used to make his son’s school uniform in his garment factory, but he wasn’t the best designer and it made Alan stand out to the amusement of other children. Lord Sugar did not approve of this and set out to earn enough money to buy his own.
By the time he was 13 he had a paper round, a milk round, brewed homemade ginger beer for the neighbours and sold his father’s factory discards to the rag-and-bone man. Whilst doing this he also worked shifts at the local bakers and greengrocers; so it’s not a surprise that 53 years later he is worth an estimated £770million!
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So what can you do to bring out the independence in your child?
Taking a step back and letting them stand on their own two feet is often the best thing to do, and there are certain things you can do in order to nurture their independence.
#1. Don’t be a Buzz kill.
The worst thing you can do to a child who has found something they are interested in is ruin their passion for it. Although it may not seem interesting or productive to you, one of the main acts of independence is making decisions and following through with them.
So let your child make mistakes, because as Oscar Wilde says, “experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
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#2. Encourage Exploration.
It’s important to make sure you don’t let your child run a riot and go hurt themselves at a young age, but it’s also healthy to let them do a little exploring themselves.
Once you believe your child has a good understanding of safety, you must then push them to explore the world for themselves. This push allows your child to test their own capabilities and develop a sense of confidence and independence.
#3. Encourage Exercise and Fitness.
The principles of keeping healthy and fit apply to most situations that your child will encounter in life. You have to make good decisions on what’s best for you, put a lot of effort until you see good results; and then keep going.
Getting exercise and experimenting in the great outdoors is also been proven to have positive effects on mental health, whilst team sports also help in a child’s social development.
#4. Push them to be problem solvers.
There will come a time in your child’s life where they are challenged with a problem and you won’t be there to help them with it. Therefore the best thing to do when a child approaches you with a problem is ask them ‘what do you think you should do?’ If they are wrong, direct them in the right direction and leave them to it.
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#5. Don’t force your own ambitions on them.
Although you may have had dreams of being a footballer, dancer or lawyer, don’t force these ambitions into your child’s life; let them find their own path which they want to take and support them through it.
#6. Misbehaviour is not always a bad sign.
A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that ‘It is the high-ability person who tends to ‘break-the-rules’ who is especially likely to become a successful entrepreneur,” and that “misbehaviour is very strongly correlated with and responsible for creative thought”.
So if your child gets into a little bit of trouble but shows strong promise in other areas, it may be a positive sign.
Try and steer their aggressive risk-taking tendencies in a more productive manner.
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#7. Demand accountability, whether positive or negative.
Although legally children are not yet fully accountable for their actions, this does not mean they should not be accountable for their mistakes and failures.
The ability for children to hold themselves accountable and realise every action has a reaction is a critical part of becoming independent. If they are going to accept praise for their achievements they must be willing to take responsibility for their mistakes and failures.
Content provided by Emily Weston, Childrenswear Online Editorial Assistant at House of Fraser
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Do you have any tips for giving your child independence? Please let us know in the comments below.