As much as we want to do for our children, we also want them to be self-sufficient. It's not only important that kids learn to be empathetic and spirited but also be individualistic. The good thing with raising self-reliant or independent kids is that we, by default raise problem-solvers and that is a life-skill that each parent needs to arm their kids' with. A gradual process, it starts as soon as your toddler is on his or her feet and has some form of control over movements. In the long run, you will have kids that are more confident and eager to take on the world.
Here are five things you can consciously do to make them self-reliant:
Kids thrive when they are presented with an opportunity to make decisions for themselves. Let them make small choices such as, the clothes they want to wear or the shoes they want to match with it. Small things like letting them choose their dish from a menu at a cafe or pick out their favourite night-time book goes a long way. This decision-making ability not only builds confidence but also pushes them to undertake bigger tasks. However, here’s a little trick to keep some control. You, as a parent, can always exercise by giving them the options to choose from. For eg. sometimes my son chooses the most hideous clothes, so to counter that I pick two outfits of my choice and ask him to choose from it. Its an out and out win-win for both of us.
As parents, we often give in to the urge of cleaning it ourselves, reassuring our kids that we are always there to clean up after them. This needs to stop as it is the biggest mistake we make as parents. A part of raising independent children is also to make them realise that they are equally responsible for the house they live in. Kids can help contribute by taking up small responsibilities around the house, especially by taking care of their belongings and their room. Making their bed in the morning, for example, can be a great start. Ask your pre-teen to set the table for dinner, or have the salad ready, to fold laundry or clean their cupboards.
My kids love helping me bake and honestly, it is a great way to bond with them, but trouble starts when they want to help in mixing the batter and creating a mess which obviously I will have to clean and that’s when I would shoo them out. However, I realised that by do so, I was discouraging my children from willingly helping me out. Being helpful is a trait we all want in our children and the irony is that we discourage them from helping out in the house. Think about the long run here: yes, they will in all probability make a mess while cleaning, however, if you teach them the right way of doing things, you are raising your own army of helpful hands and independent human beings.
As parents, we are protective of our kids and do everything for them in order to shield them from harm. However, sometimes it's best to take a step back and give control to kids for age-appropriate activities. Guide your toddler, your pre-teen or teenager but let the kids do age-appropriate activities or chores themselves instead of you doing things for them. For example, if your child shows interest in cooking, help them by giving them clear instructions so they know what is expected out of them. This will give them the satisfaction of being in control while being supervised at the same time. And let us face it, we are not going to be around forever so the more they learn the better equipped they will be to take care of themselves.
And this will take a lot of patience and practice so be prepared.
Following a routine gives children a sense of routine. Once the kids are well set into a pattern, it becomes easy for them to recognise everyday tasks, which further encourages them to do things themselves.
And lastly, do not second guess them. Yes, we do it more often than not and without realisation. Have faith in them because if we won’t who will?