6 Expert Tips for Encouraging Your Child's Independence

6 Expert Tips for Encouraging Your Child's Independence

Experts advise moms on the best ways to build independence and confidence in their kids.

By: Maressa Brown

Once toddlers hit a certain age, they’ll seize any opportunity to do something all by themselves. This may also be the time that they’re clinging as tightly as ever to their parents. Here are six ways to help your little ones embrace independence, feel more confident, and hone their resiliency.

1. Let them solve problems. “If your child is trying something new and difficult (e.g., tying their shoe), you don’t have to jump in right away to help,” says University of Washington psychologist Miriam Liss, PhD, author of Balancing the Big Stuff: Finding Happiness in Work, Family and Life. “It is OK to let your kid get frustrated. You can reflect on their feelings, such as, ‘Wow, that looks really hard,’ but try to avoid doing it for them.” That way, they’ll be able to build their skill set, and feel proud that they accomplished it on their own.

2. Give your child permission to fail. Encourage a “growth” mindset, which has been shown to increase confidence and resiliency. “Children should be praised not just for doing things that are correct, but for trying -- and even failing,” explains Liss. “When failures are re-framed as opportunities to practice and grow, children become less afraid to try new and difficult things.”

3. Praise uniqueness. “Accept and celebrate your child/teen's emerging individuality,” advises Susan Smith Kuczmarski, EdD, author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager. “Recognize that their values are changing rapidly. Help them identify and prioritize and share [their values] with each other on the family front.” Individuality will beget independence.

4. Make room for boredom. Boredom can be a blessing in disguise. “When your child says, ‘What should I do? I am bored,’ this is not necessarily the time to jump in with a new craft or read them a story,” shares Liss. “Let your child be bored, and they will eventually come up with some independent and imaginary play! This will teach them that they have the skills to entertain themselves, which fosters resiliency and independence.”


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5. Assign them their own to-do lists. Depending on your child’s age, assigning ownership of certain tasks around the house can foster independence and confidence, notes Kuczmarski. “Work out a ‘chores plan’ together with your children that everyone feels good about,” she says. “Have each child choose and take total responsibility for two big chores that he or she likes to do and does well.”

6. Offer specific praise. When your child is working independently, offer positive reinforcement. “Most praise is too general, and because of this, doesn’t build self-esteem or motivate learning,” explains Kuczmarski. “A child needs to hear that she is wonderful, and why. For example, if a child drew a picture of a birdhouse, a parent might say, ‘How warm the birds will be when they live in it!’ or, ‘The color you painted it will help to camouflage the birds.’” In turn, your child will be more motivated to do similar projects on his or her own.

What are some ways you have helped foster independence in your kids?

Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.

Image ©iStock.com/romrodinka

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