If you want to know how to raise independent children, we’re sharing 9 tips and ideas to inspire you.
Like most moms I know, I had very specific ideas on how I wanted to raise my daughter when I first learned I was pregnant with her. My mother was not the type to baby my sister and me when we were children as she preferred to raise strong, independent women who could handle whatever life threw at them. This has served me very well over the course of my life, but at times it’s been a bit of a double-edged sword. I grew up feeling as though I had to be perfect in every single aspect of my life, and that asking for help was a sign of weakness. It has taken me most of my adult life to learn how to let go of the unrealistic expectations I used to try to live up to, and allow myself to be perfectly UN-perfect.
This has obviously had a profound impact on how I parent my own daughter. While I want her to be self-sufficient and able to stand on her own two feet, I also want her to know it’s okay to ask for help and lean on others when she needs to. It’s been surprisingly challenging for me to find a balance I’m comfortable with – to figure out how to push my daughter without feeling as though I’m expecting too much from her.
If you want to know how to raise independent children, here are 9 tips that have really helped me.
How to Raise Independent Children
1. BE CLEAR ABOUT EXPECTATIONS
If you’re trying to figure out how to raise independent children, the first thing you need to do is have an open and honest conversation with your child. Explain your expectations and the rules by which you wish your home to be governed, and provide regular reminders along the way to set your little ones up for success. Keep in mind that teaching your kids independence isn’t a negative thing. Empowering your children and giving them more accountability doesn’t just teach them important life skills – it also shows them that you trust them, and that they are an important and contributing part of your family. This can have a very positive impact on their self-confidence and feelings of self-worth when done correctly, so be careful to frame this in an encouraging and positive light.
2. STICK TO A PREDICTABLE ROUTINE
If your kids have a tendency to dawdle, another one of my favorite tips for raising independent children is to create a predictable weekday and weekend routine. You can simply write a list of action items on a piece of paper for specific times of the day and attach it to a clipboard, or get fancy with a customized magnetic checklist (Melissa and Doug has a great one you can personalize), but the point remains the same: when your kids know exactly what they need to do, they will be much more likely to pitch in and help out without you nagging and reminding them.
3. ASSIGN AGE-APPROPRIATE CHORES
When I first started to consider assigning chores to my daughter, my initial fear was that it would have a negative impact on our relationship. I envisioned the 2 of us engaging in endless power struggles each day as that was the experience I had with my own mother. But as I started researching chore charts and the benefits of rewarding kids for helping out around the house, I realized that the issue with my own childhood had nothing to do with being given responsibility, and everything to do with the fact that my mom didn’t choose age appropriate chores for me.
As mentioned earlier, empowering your child and giving him or her more accountability actually shows that you trust them and that they are a contributing part of the family, which can actually strengthen your relationship. CLICK HERE for a list of age-appropriate chores to help you get started!
4. GIVE THE GIFT OF TIME
When you see your child struggling with a new task you are trying to teach him or her, it can be really tempting to jump in and try to rescue them. It can also feel a lot easier if you just do it yourself, but keep in mind that the only way your child will learn is by trial and error. A great tip I’ve learned while encouraging more independence in my daughter is to simply SLOW DOWN. We live in a day and age where we’re encouraged to over-schedule ourselves and our children as much as possible, which can make it really difficult to allow our little ones the time they need to practice and develop new skills as they grow.
If you’re an impatient Type A mom, I find it helpful to practice deep breathing and count silently in my head to prevent myself from intervening. :)
5. USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Reinforcement is a fabulous technique parents and caregivers can use to increase the likelihood that a child will repeat a desirable behavior, and while both positive and negative forms of reinforcement can help with teaching children self-control, research tends to suggest that positive reinforcement is the most effective. I am a HUGE fan of reward charts, and if you’re trying to figure out how to raise independent children, this tip could be life-changing for you! Reward charts tend to be most effective in kids aged 2-10 years, and offer a simple way to keep kids motivated without power struggles and consequences. I’ve written an entire post about how to successfully implement reward charts, including links to my favorite free printable options as well as some great budget-friendly customizable options, which you can read HERE.
6. PUSH YOUR CHILD OUTSIDE HIS/HER COMFORT ZONE
Provide your child opportunities to do things beyond what he or she feels capable of, and help him or her find ways to achieve these goals. This may mean helping your little one with planning and organizing their time, teaching them how to break tasks down into smaller, more manageable action items, etc. The point is to (gently) push your child beyond what he or she feels they are capable of, and then helping them meet (or exceed) what they set out to do so they feel more confident in their abilities.
7. DON’T EXPECT PERFECTION
As much as we want our children to excel and achieve great things, remember that there’s a fine line between encouraging them and pushing them too far. There is nothing wrong with setting expectations for your child, but be sure they are aligned with his or her capabilities, remember to reward effort over results, and refrain from comparing your little one to others.
8. ALLOW THEM TO MAKE MISTAKES
Another great tip for those who want to know how to raise independent children is to allow them to make mistakes and help them see the lessons they learn along the way. As tempting as it is to protect our children from failure, life isn’t perfect and it’s important our children feel confident and comfortable taking risks. We want our children to view setbacks as learning opportunities to help them grow, develop, and move forward, and while it can be difficult watching our little ones fail, teaching them how to cope with adversity will serve them much better in the long run. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, teach your child to focus on what went right, and help him or her strategize what he or she can do differently next time.
9. GIVE EVERYONE GRACE
My last tip for those who are trying to figure out how to raise independent children is to give yourself and your child GRACE. There is no right or wrong way to do this, and you will have days where things don’t go according to plan. Parenting is difficult at the best of times, and when you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying to teach your little one new skills and putting more trust in them, it can test every ounce of your patience. There will be days when you feel like you’ve fallen short, and when this occurs, it’s important to take a moment to stop and remember that you are only human. And so is your child. Take a few deep breaths, give your child a hug, and remember these helpful words by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
‘Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.’
If you want to know how to raise independent children, I hope these tips and ideas prove useful to you! Remember to be clear and consistent, to push your child within his or her limits, to slow down and allow your child to make mistakes, and to give everyone grace along the way!
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