As the authority in their life, children will look to their parents most of the time for guidance and comfort. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a child depending on you, it’s also important they learn how to be independent. They will carry this independence into adulthood and are much more likely to be successful in life when they learn to depend on themselves early on.
Sparking your child’s independence doesn’t mean having them make their own breakfast at age five (although it is possible for them to prepare cereal and milk at this age), but rather learning to think and act on their own appropriately. When showing your child how to be independent, you’re mostly teaching them to know they can be their own person and learn how to operate life without you. As most parents should understand, you will not always be there for them. For a child to be ready to take on life beyond living under your roof, it’s important to spark their independence.
Give Them Chores
An easy and convenient way to grow your child’s independence is by giving them household chores. This puts your child in charge of something which increases their sense of responsibility. When children are given responsibilities, it shows them that not everything in life is going to be taken care of by their parent or guardian. It also shows them that there will be responsibilities in life that will fall on them. Even if it is a chore as simple as unpacking their school bags, putting their clothes in the washing machine, hanging up and later on folding the clothes, bringing the rubbish bins in, vacuuming the floor, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the family pet, or any other age-appropriate chore, it teaches them responsibility. Responsibility is an effective way to spark their independence.
Have Conversations With Them
Whether your child is an infant or is going off to university, it’s important to be talking to them. This gives your child a sense of presence and importance from infancy. By having an actual conversation with them from infancy, they come to understand that they are more than just some random being but rather an actual person. Even sign language (albeit your own made up sign language) is a great way for them to learn to communicate with you early on and feel a part of the conversation instead of just being talked at. Children feel valued when you speak to them face-to-face and one-on-one, and they learn how to speak with other children and adults by the way that communication is modelled to them.
Make Them in Charge of Their Siblings
If you have other children, a great way to help the oldest feel responsible and independent is by giving them some babysitting responsibilities. This doesn’t mean leaving them alone in the house for hours on end but instead telling them to hold their sibling’s hand when walking in public or coordinating games with them while you’re cooking dinner. By explaining to them how important it is to watch their younger sibling, it shows them that you trust them on their own. This will then make your child feel that they can too trust themselves to be independent. The “child in charge” responsibilities can also be shared to the middle and youngest sibling. They’ll all give feedback about what they didn’t think was fair and they can learn from what their siblings did well and poorly when in charge.