Fostering Independence- It’s not easy!

I have read multiple times the main goal of parenting is to make our children able to live without us. It is also the hardest part of parenthood. We know if we do our job correctly, our children will one day leave the nest.

Fostering independence in your children is a lot like math….. one skill leads to another. Think about how young we begin these lessons with our babies! The first lesson is often having children learn how to put themselves to sleep. The very first step of independence!

We follow up by helping our kids learn to get dressed independently, use the bathroom on their own, feed themselves, and so much more! It can be a wild ride helping your child learn a skill that you could do for them in 1/4 of the time it takes them to complete on their own. Helloooooooo- how about cleaning their rooms? I know I could have finished that task 12 times by the time my kids got through the task once. Of course, I don’t rediscover toys that I forgot I had along the way. As parents, it is our job to step back to allow our kids to learn and yes, sometimes fail.

There are so many lessons to learn from failing a task. We teach responsibility to our children for the failure. Don’t blame someone else when you are unable to do something. Buckle down, try again and again until the skill is mastered. Don’t practice until you are good, practice until you can’t fail. Take responsibility for mistakes. By doing this, we take control of the situation and place the fixing in our own hands. If we blame someone or something else for our failures, then we no longer have control of fixing and mastering that issue. Don’t take away the ability from your child to overcome something that has been difficult for them! These are the skills that will serve them well in the future!

There will be times when we need to step back in to help out our children. We never want the frustration level of our children to overwhelm our kids. Every child will have a different level of tolerance for difficult tasks. Some kids love tackling a challenge, others will need to be coached through unbuttoning clothes, or getting those shoe on the “right” feet. Consistency is key. Don’t jump in to help because you are running short on time. Plan ahead to allow for your child to have the opportunity to take the tasks they are willing to try. YEP! Sometimes this takes a lot of time! But, not quite as much time as following your child into a sports locker room to help them get dressed at age 10 because you couldn’t find time when they were younger. I know you can do it!!

What do you do if your child is struggling in a particular area? As always, answers to this issue vary. Is the task they are struggling with related to the health and well-being? Perhaps they are choosing to eat unhealthy foods. Maybe they don’t want to go to bed at a time to give them adequate sleep. It could be that they are having trouble using the bathroom when they need. What do you do then? The health of your child comes first. Ask for help from your pediatrician if you are able. Attend Early Childhood Family Education classes and talk with the parent educator. Ask parent friends for suggestions.

Remember- any tasks relating to the health of your child are not negotiable. Children need to go to bed. Bed time is only chosen by children on special occasions. Kids need to eat foods that are good for them. They must drink water- lots of it! They need to use the bathroom. These items are a must because you care about your child’s health.

When you child needs some decision making power- let them pick out their shirt, socks, or pajamas. You will have many opportunities to have your children flex their decision making skills. Decisions regarding the health of their bodies is not one of those areas.

Independence! It’s the goal of parenting. Sitting on the other side of the fence, with children who are entering adulthood, I can tell you that sometimes it’s painful knowing my kids don’t need me the same way they did when they were little. I have never experienced a more satisfying feeling than seeing them handle difficulties in their lives. The marathon was worth it. It will be for you as well.

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