Be Proactive: Encouraging Children to be Independent

You're in charge! 

For this month of July, the note I received from Meg's school is all about teaching independence to kids. As Meg turned Grade 1, there are a lot of adjustments that in some way brought different changes in her behavior. 

I admit Meg has not been so independent when school started. I still help her in the morning in taking a bath. She can take a bath on her own but during weekdays, I cannot let her by herself since taking a bath would mean more time spent in the bathroom and we'll be late for school. I still dress her up for school and all the things needed during schooldays - I take charge.

She can do things on her own with minimal supervision like keeping her toys, clean up her plate after eating, dressing up, playing on her own, and all the school stuff. The things she cannot do on her own would mean a lot of frustration on her part and as a Mom; I am partly to blame because I don't want her to be frustrated so I do things for her. It's not totally a bad thing, but it doesn't help when we want to teach kids to be independent.

Think Through. I think the best way to help them is to observe them in doing things like when they have a new toy, let them think through it and figure how it works. If it's still not working for them, that's the time we should help them and take our time to teach them how it works or how to do it so they will know how next time. I read an article before, that we should let kids feel frustration at first, so that when they can do things after, they will be pleased that they can do it alone.

Listen and Talk. Listening means understanding them. I am most guilty here. When Meg tries to tell me something and I am busy, I'll just say ok, without even looking at her. We should be active listeners to our children, to hear and understand what they are trying to say. Meg and I talk about a lot of things before bedtime. I asked her how was her day and how did she managed all her experiences. When she talks about something she cannot do like when her teacher asked her to lead the prayer in front and she committed a mistake and she feels so discouraged to do it again, I let her know that it's ok to commit mistake because you can try to do it again. That way, she will feel that what she did is not totally wrong and her own thinking and judgment of the situation will help her to have the courage to do things on her own again.

Courage. Courage enables us to face fears and difficulty. For our children, it means being brave to do things on their own. This is one character trait needed in teaching our kids to be independent. It means their fears should not stop them to do things. Meg is new to big school, so the fear of the new environment, new teachers and classmates, longer school hours, and more challenging schoolwork, may frighten her. We need to guide and assist them to overcome these fears through being courageous in their actions.

Encourage. As parents, we should always encourage our children. Simple praises like "Good job" or "You can do it" can encourage them more to try their best in doing something. As our children grow, there are things that they should do on their own and our role as parents is to ensure that they grow as independent as possible. Let us always encourage our children to do things, to explore something new, to talk to us about how they feel about something they want to do, and to take charge.
How about you? How do you encourage your children to be independent?

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