Once we become parents, almost every perspective on life we had is changed. We make more room for our tiny humans in our personal space and time, devoting ourselves to their well being and happiness.
At times, we are exaggerating; becoming too obsessed with making everything for them and offering as much as there is of our attention and devotion. That would be the most common parenting mistake. Our best intentions can blind us, blurring the big picture.
It is actually quite easy to become a helicopter parent, without realizing it. We are all naturally protective when it comes to our little ones. We want to make everything safe and easy for them, so that they can grow up to be happy and confident adults.
How much confident can a person be if he/she is not capable of doing anything without consulting with a parent? This is the question we need to repeat to ourselves constantly in order to stay on the right path.
An independent person is a person capable of making decisions and able to take care of themselves. A person free from the influence or control of others instead of constantly looking for the others affirmation or approval.
Apart of taking care for the primal needs of our babies, we must teach them skills that will allow them to swim alone and to swim safe in this ocean.
Here is some advice on how to help your kid be an independent child.
- Do not feel obliged to entertain them. Their fun shall be their destination and they should get there on their own. At times you will participate but only to be a part of it, not to arrange it all for them. Many parents feel the need to keep their kids entertained. This is not a favor for them. When you are the one that always invents games and things to do for them, you are not allowing their creativity to bloom. They should be bored at times. When I was a child, during the summer vacation, the most fun adventures happened when we were bored! And you know why? Because that’s when the best ideas flourish. If you really need to help them find something new and interesting to do, you can give them random things you have at the moment in your home, and give them a task to accomplish – for example: tell them that you want to see if they can make something that can move out of all the things you gave them. This way they will engage with both mind and hand activities.
- Do not feed them. As soon as the infant period is over, meaning when your baby becomes a toddler with a mouth full of teeth and controlled movements of the hands, they should be able to eat on their own. Your assistance is to cook for them and put it on a plate. Not to teach them to wait for their bite to be placed in their mouth. Let them eat with their hands at first. That way they will discover the texture of every food. When they are quite confident and start to ask for a spoon you shall give them a spoon and a fork. They may even pinch themselves a bit, but that’s how they will learn to be more attentive. I gave my son a plastic knife (a small, and not a sharp one) after his second birthday. He can’t hurt himself with it, and it can be hard for him to make a cut but it will help him learn how to handle a knife. Now, at the age of three, he is completely able to cut his fruit and vegetables.
- Let them dress and choose their clothes on their own. We all have different taste when it comes to colors and clothes. You may not find it appropriate, to let your little girl put on a princess costume dress for her regular day at the kindergarten, but if she feels like a princess, why not let her dress like one? Would you like it if someone was to tell you what you should put on or not every day? Or would you like if someone keeps buying you clothes you don’t like? Yeah, we all hate uniforms, right? If you want your little boy to have his own style, you shall let him choose for himself. Even when you don’t like something he wants, let him have it. You’ll be surprised how fond he will be of particularly that piece of clothing. And by the age of two or three at most they should be able to dress on their own. Even if it means that they will put something backwards, let them try, show them how, but let them do it! They should put their shoes on and you can tie the laces.
- Another thing that comes in hand with the last one is to teach them how to shower on their own. At age of three they are able to learn how to put the shampoo and the shower gel on and how to hold the shower and wash themselves. Off course you will still have to supervise, but let them try to do it on their own.
- Teach them to care about others. The best way to teach them to care about others is by having a pet. It does not have to be a dog or a cat, if it is too much for you. Fish are always a great choice for a first pet. A fish is practically an autonomous pet. The aquarium does almost everything, except for the feeding part. You should let your munchkin feed his fish. Or you can get them a plant. A type of cactus with little or none thorns or succulent is a great first choice, since it does not require much – just water it on every 10 days. The growing of the pet or the plant will prove them how a good care is beneficial for the ones we love, and how proud it can make us.
- Let them clean their mess. Whenever they spill something, they should clean it. The same goes for their toys. I’ve presented this part as taking care of the toys. That way when he is done with play time, he is putting the toys to sleep. At times, I even let him wash them. He believes that’s their bath time – he even dries them with a towel. You can also teach them to pack their things when going on a trip, and to carry his own luggage (a small one according to their age) or push his stroller.
- The best way to make a kid confident is to show them that you trust them. This can be done by watching them play from a certain distance. For example, if your backyard is fenced and safe for play, you can let them play alone, monitoring them from the windows or an open door. On the playgrounds, you don’t need to stay glued by their side; just let them know that you are sitting close, on the nearby bench, in case they need your assistance or help.
- The most important thing you should teach your child is to enable them for problem solving. Whenever they have a problem, you should let them solve it on their own; instead of let them run to you to save them. Sibling rivalry is a common problem for the toddler age. You can let them deal with it on their own, making some simple rules. For example: how to identify the problem and to attack the problem itself, not the person on the other side. How to listen and respect the feelings of another person, how to compromise, and take responsibility for their own actions.
- And finally, let them help with the chores. For an easy start, you should let them wipe and dust things. This activity can also be fun for them. My boy likes sweeping :). You will probably have to redo it at the beginning but later on that won’t be necessary. Another simple chore is taking the trash out and helping with the groceries. You can put a small garbage can in his room so that he can take care of it.
You need to remember that independence comes slowly, and that it takes patience not to interfere in order to get it done faster. The thought of letting your kids do things on their own can be scary, but at some point they will be forced to step up, and it is always better and easier when they are prepared and capable for it. Encouraging self-sufficiency will lead to a confident and self-reliant child, and that will allow him to grow up in an independent person capable to make decisions and to be responsible for his actions.
Author: Daniela Miovska
My Quiet Spot
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