How to Foster Independence in Your Child
As we prepare to embark on a new school year, it’s essential to consider not only developing reading, writing, and math skills but also fostering a child’s independence skills. Independent children approach the world with a confident mindset. They demonstrate resilience, responsibility, and the view of themselves as active agents who can change their outcomes.
Does this sound familiar?
“Grab your backpack.”
“Where’s your lunchbox?”
“Did you get your homework folder?” School mornings can be hectic, and you hope your child gets everything they need out the door for a successful day at school. However, have you ever returned home after drop-off and seen the homework folder sitting on the kitchen counter or received a call from your child for forgotten items mid work meeting? You ponder how you should respond— disrupt your busy workday to take the item to school or let your child go without it?
How do I balance support and independence with my child?
Indeed, it’s difficult at times to know where the “just right” space is between being overprotective and giving a child enough leeway to exercise their independence. You can ask yourself a few questions:
Is this a decision that compromises my child’s safety? In this case, you need to step in sooner rather than later.
When is the right time to step in, and can I step in indirectly? For example, if there is an issue of missed school assignments, maybe an email to a teacher explaining that you’ve encouraged your child to handle the situation by asking for their work keeps everyone informed but gives the child the opportunity to problem solve.
Is there a potential lesson to learn in a bit of struggle? After all, children still need guidance to learn how to make good decisions, but natural challenges and consequences offer valuable learning opportunities.
We all want to see our children avoid the consequences of being late or unprepared. However, when we come between children and their daily situations, we may be standing in the way of their independence. For example, missing a homework submission will likely reinforce to your child the importance of packing their homework folder next time. Leaving a lunchbox at home and having to eat a school-provided lunch can prompt a child to remember their lunch before getting in the car or walking to the bus stop.
When children figure out solutions to their problems, they learn to rely on themselves. Additionally, memories serve as great teachers. You only touched a hot surface once as a child, didn’t you? The unpleasant experience and accompanied memory kept you from making the same poor decision twice.
Use these few tips to guide your child towards greater independence:
1. Teach independence routines when you have time— not when you’re in a rush. Running late to school is not the best time to teach skills such as packing a lunch or putting on socks and shoes. Practice routines and new skills at relaxed times of the day or on the weekend. Children will gain the practice they need and the confidence to successfully apply their new skills.
2. Incorporate visual charts and schedules. You probably keep a calendar of some kind as a visual reminder for your work and personal appointments. Your calendar serves as a visual aid to house all the information you might be apt to forget. Kids can also benefit from memory and attention aids just like adults. Giving your child visual schedules for bathroom “get ready” routines, nighttime routines, or tasks like chores can help guide them through the steps without you needing to verbally prompt and re-prompt each direction. You can break down a routine into all its components in a step-by-step list. If you have young children, visual schedules can be pictured lists. Visual schedules can help minimize your frustration and allow your child to feel accomplished!
3. Give your child responsibilities. Most children don’t like chores, but household responsibilities go a long way in life. Chores teach a child to be part of a working family structure with shared responsibilities. Chores also help children feel empowered and learn to care for their possessions. Whether it’s cleaning the bathroom, sorting and putting away laundry, or feeding the family pet, find tasks to give your child. They’ll learn functional skills for living that will carry with them for years to come.
Best in Class Education Centers are passionate about equipping students with the skills they need to be successful in school and thrive in all they do. We know that independent kids will become tomorrow’s community and thought leaders. Contact us today to learn more about how Best in Class Education Centers can ignite the joy of learning in your child with high-quality tutoring and enrichment programs.