As a parent, there are so many hopes and aspirations you have for your child. Your heart swells when you hear them learn new words, sing, and do everyday things, such as using a fork correctly or washing their hands on their own. You want what’s best for your child, so you often find yourself showing them how to do things, helping them when they are frustrated, and overall doing your best to make sure they succeed. But are you actually hindering their success, or helping to raise independent children?
Raising problem-solving children
The first step to making sure that your child is independent is to let them make decisions for themselves. You would be surprised how early and young you need to begin cultivating problem-solving in your children. The experiences they have before they even begin to form long term memories will wire their brains on whether they should be independent or wait for help. Things like sleep training and self-soothing as babies help them learn important problem-solving skills they’ll use for their whole lives.
As they get older, having them brush their teeth independently, wash their hands on their own, and letting them feed themselves are all things that teach them to solve problems. And as they continue to age, it’s important to give them opportunities to figure out how to solve their problems on their own before jumping to their rescue. What you can do to help them in this process, though, is help them develop skills, such as cooking or learning to drive.
For example, if your child is playing with blocks and is getting frustrated that it keeps falling over, instead of taking over and building their tower for them, you can try to walk them through how to do it. You can give them encouraging words to tell them to try again. You can build your own tower, explaining to them what you’re doing, for them to replicate on their own. To raise an independent child you don’t need to leave them to fend for themselves, you just need to show them how to solve problems on their own in the future.
You cringe when you hear the phrase “helicopter parent”, but how many classically “helicopter parent” things are you doing? You might be surprised at some things as simple as encouraging your child to play on their own. It is valuable for them to play with you, but not always. At the playground, don’t follow them around and show them how to play. Encourage them to go off and play on their own, letting them know that you are going to sit and watch them. At home, offer toys to play with and then let them play alone.
Some children who are first learning how to play independently benefit from having music play while they play. A huge perk of your child learning how to entertain themselves is that it will give you more time to get things done that you need to. Dishes, finish that book you’ve been working on for months or responding to emails. If your child is anxious about separation from you or doing things on their own, it can be helpful for them to have an item or object that gives them that same sense of comfort. This is where the phrase “safety blanket” comes from, and high-quality blankets actually make for a good option for this.
An important aspect of having an independent child is teaching them to clean up after themselves. If you always clean up their messes, they will never learn to clean them up by themselves. When they are playing with toys, teach them to put them away before getting something else out. Show them how to make their bed in the mornings. Include them when you are unloading the dishwasher. Let them make dinner with you. These don’t have to feel like chores or work for young children. You can start chores with your child as soon as they can walk, and they will learn that it is no one’s job to clean up after them.
Teaching them to be smart with money
Money often feels like a taboo topic, which is a mistake when it comes to parenting. Talk openly about money in front of your child. Try not to make it a negative topic. Teaching your child to manage their own money before they are old enough to get an actual job will help them know what to do when they are earning their own money. There are lots of different ways to do this, and you’ll know the best way to implement this.
You can give your child an allowance, let them earn money by doing chores, or a combination of this. However you choose to give them money, it’s important to teach them what they should be doing with this money. Give them a savings account, and make sure they know how to save for bigger expenses.