From birth, children are on a quest for independence. They showcase this by wanting to turn on the tap on at the sink, wanting to feed themselves and attempting to remove shoes, clothes and even nappies. Developing a child’s independence is a crucial stage for building confidence. As an adult it takes a lot of patience when children are carrying out these tasks as it may take twice as long and thrice as messy. For parents, it may be difficult to see your child try, fail and feel frustrated or disappointed.
Here are some simple ways to encourage independence in children:
Setting predictable routines is extremely important for nurturing independence. Just like adults, when children are familiar or anticipate their days, they are better equipped to take on daily routines. As children repeatedly complete small tasks such as brushing their teeth or putting their shoes on before going outside, over time they will be able to anticipate what is coming next. By allowing your child to carry out these small tasks independently, you are communicating to them that you have faith in their abilities and that you are there to help if they need it.
Letting your child choose is another way to support your child’s independence. Involve them in deciding what to wear, what to play or who to call! Provide two or three options and praise their great ability to make choices.
Allowing your child to help is a great strategy for calming tantrums or redirecting behaviour by giving them a sense of control. When you allow children to help, you promote their confidence while giving them the opportunity to learn something new. This is a great way to involve your child daily routines and activities.
Nurturing free play (independent and unstructured play) is very important for encouraging creativity and problem-solving skills. Avoid intervening while watching your child play independently but do make lots of comments and praise their efforts. You can always make suggestions or introduce new material to extend play.
When encouraging independence, it is important to let your child know that you see their efforts, persistence, bravery and growth. By giving your child verbal feedback, you are giving them are giving them positive attention to the qualities that you want to foster making it more likely that these behaviours will happen again.