Raising A Child To Be Independent
Created by Yoo-Young Kim Updated on Nov 29, 2018
I used to be a preschool teacher for 6-year-olds, and ALL of them can (1) change shoes, (2) line up, (3) go to the bathroom by themselves, (4) (un)dress by themselves and (5) eat meals by themselves. Then, what about at home? Why do children do NOT do things by themselves at home?
First, parents can check themselves on what they think of the children.
#1. Check all that your children are most likely capable of doing alone:
- Can they wash their faces alone?
- Can they dress by themselves for preschool/ school? (or maybe just socks?)
- Can they unpack the backpack by themselves?
- Can they brush teeth by themselves?
- Can they do homework by themselves?
- Can they stop the smartphone/tablet/PC by themselves?
- Can they put on shoes by themselves?
- Can they make friends?
- Can they choose what to do for free time? (what to play with)
- Can they clean up their plates by themselves?
If you answered yes to more than 5 of the questions, you can start giving your child some space to grow independent by treating her/him as someone who can help you.
You might say: ‘Amy, can you help mama by putting on the shoes by yourself?’ Most children would like to prove that they can do it.
#2. Assign Easy Tasks
A small hill first. It is important for the children to feel that they can do it! Give them simple tasks like putting their plates away first, before you expect them to do harder things.
#3. Compliment, compliment, compliment!
When you let the child do the tasks, and the child succeeds, make sure you compliment!
Examples: ‘Good job!’ / ‘Great work’ / ‘Fantastic’ / ‘Excellent’ / ‘You did it by yourself!’
The process is as important as the result. Not only compliment when the job is done successfully, but also when the child tried hard. It will encourage the child to not fear trying out new things.
Your words can be medicine or poison, depending on how you use them for your children.
- Objectively check what the child is capable of now
- Give Tasks that are easy to succeed
- Compliment and treat them as beings who can help you
Admittedly, it is difficult to resist the urge to help children do tasks, but the longer you make the children rely on you for simple tasks, the more dependent children become.
However, it is important to keep in mind that not all children develop at the same pace, and some might take longer to grow independent than others. For example, I used to cry a lot when I go on school overnight trips, when my friends were completely fine leaving their parents for a night. Yet I grew up to be more independent than most of my friends, because I had to spend some time abroad for schooling away from parents. It is when the parents do not give in to the urge to help, that children truly learn how to be independent.
I want to emphasize, however, that parents definitely should or must encourage and express love to their children as much as they can. It is different from doing things for them. It is encouraging them that they can do things by themselves in loving ways.
Yoo-Young has studied Educational Psychology at Harvard Graduate School of Education (M. Ed) and worked with children at an international school. Now she is researching and planning talks on children’s tech use and parental control app ‘Odinga’ at a Korean Ed. Tech The Plan G.