How to Help your Child become more Independent
In the blink of an eye the academic year has gone by and, in just a few months, many of our nursery children will be starting big school. This is the time of the year that parents tend to wonder: “Have I done enough to prepare my child for school?”, “Is there anything else I can do to ensure a smooth transition?” My advice? Don’t stress over academics. Instead focus on helping your child to become more independent as this will be crucial in the next step of their learning journey.
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
Young children can do much more than parents tend to give them credit for: From self-help skills like dressing themselves, eating independently and brushing their own hair to daily tasks such as carrying their own bags, tidying up toys and even helping to set the table. Children can certainly become more self-reliant with all these chores, and many more, if only they are given daily opportunities to try them on their own. Here are our top tips on how you can help empower your young child and support their independence:
Follow their lead
Do you recall when your baby wanted to hold his own bottle or when your two-year old started displaying that “I can do it all” attitude? It’s a natural progression of child development for young children to want to do things for themselves, so, instead of stepping in to make sure everything is done right, follow your child’s lead and give them a chance to accomplish tasks
which they are already displaying a desire to do. Things will certainly get messy and perhaps will not be done as you had envisioned. However, look at the bigger picture: practicing new skills help children get better at them! Consequently, this will boost their self-esteem and can also improve their physical dexterity.
Believe in them and show it!
If you got into the habit of doing everything for your almost school-age child and now decided that it’s time to stop, it might initially be a bit tricky to get them to do things for themselves – old habits die hard. Don’t despair though. There is still hope! So, go ahead and determine the tasks that you know your child will able to do on their own. Start off with just 3-4 chores and, as they get better at being independent, gradually give them more responsibilities. For that confidence boost, remember to verbally reinforce your belief in their abilities. Creating a ‘chore chart’ which is placed at their reach and adding smiley faces or stars to it every time a task is completed can also give them the encouragement they need to keep trying.
Allow them to make mistakes
Mistakes are bound to happen as your child learns how to become more independent, so it’s important to remember that we are not aiming for perfection. It’s okay if their clothes are inside out once in a while or if some food end up on the floor while they are eating. Their efforts and willingness to try is what matters the most at this stage. Resist the temptation of stepping in immediately if they look frustrated and use words of encouragement to motivate them to carry on trying. Don’t forget to praise their efforts no matter how small!
Give them time
Never lose track of the fact that your child is still learning so it’s very likely that he/she will take much longer to complete tasks on their own than when doing them with your support. As your ultimate goal is to help your little one become more independent, rushing him/her or completing the task for them just to ensure that it’s done faster will not be the best move. Be patient and always ensure that you give your child enough time to complete what they’ve started, even if this means having to wake up a little earlier for your little one to be able to complete chores at their own pace.
Last but not least, a word of caution: This journey towards helping your child become more independent will be messy and time-consuming. However, the end result of having an independent and confident child who is proud of his/her accomplishments and is fully ready for big school will be totally worth it!