From a very young age, your little one will start showing signs of wanting her independence. The typical age this starts is around 18 months, but it really gets kicking (literally) at around 2 years. Hence the name the “terrible two’s”. Anyone who has been through this stage will know that you spend just about all your time wishing for it to pass. It is, however, a vital stage in a child’s development and it’s your child’s introduction into the big leagues.
So Why Is Independence So Important?
The need for autonomy grows from wanting to push the “going-up” button in the elevator, all on her own, to making serious life decisions later in life. As a parent, your main objective is to raise a child that will one day be a well-rounded adult. Part of this is being able to stand on her own feet and keep walking forward. That all starts with the very first power struggle you and your little one will have. How you handle the situation and what you put in place to help your child attain independence will certainly shape her adulthood.
It’s easy to think your child just wants her way when she throws a tantrum early morning, after you’ve said a definitive no to her choice of clothing for the day. However, this is, in fact, a very healthy sign that she is ready to take on more liberty. Of course, too much of a good thing and allowing a child full autonomy of a decision that she is not mature enough to make, could be both dangerous and emotionally harmful to her. Stick to things that are within your moral code and allow her to step into her role as a self-governing young person with healthy conviction.
Independence Tips For The Young Child
1. Don’t Give Your Child ALL The Choices, You Are The Parent And She Is The Child
Too many choices can confuse her and if she is not confident in her decision-making skills or she is naturally indecisive, this will be a daunting task for her. Choose age-appropriate decisions and limit them according to her development. A good idea is to decide on three options and allow your young child to choose between them. You can guide her decisions somewhat by throwing something you like, something she likes, and something you both like, into the mix. As she gets older, let her mix and match the options on her own – she can then choose which pair of pants to wear with which top. This will work in many other areas too.
2. Teach Her A New Skill
There is nothing like learning a new skill to boost your little one’s confidence. Teach her to ride her bike without the training wheels. Enroll her for swimming lessons so that she can swim without her tubes. Not only will it help build her confidence, it will provide a feeling of being self-sufficient by removing her dependence on an object. These are healthy opportunities for your child to feel freedom that will help her feel fulfilled.
3. Trust And Enable
It’s not easy to allow your child certain things especially when you can predict the outcome, but she does need to learn how to do things on her own.
- Encourage her to try new things and explore them. Don’t baby her too much. Boost her confidence by trusting her.
- Let her choose her clothes every now and then (set aside a few options for her to choose from).
- Let her help you when you do chores or go to the store. Give her a very special chore of her own, like picking out all the socks from the laundry, matching and folding them.
Independence Tips For The Older Child
1. Expand Your Child’s Choices
By the age of 8 or so, you’ll see your child begin to blossom into a wonderful decision-making machine. Continually follow your child’s development and allow her more complex decisions and freedoms.
2. Suggest Extra-Curricular Activities
These will boost her self-esteem. Sports activities teach your child to be a constructive part of a team too. Allow her to choose the extra-curricular activities she’s most drawn to and then support her in her choices.
Independence Tips For The Teenager
1. Relinquish Control, Keep The Boundaries
Let go of your grip a little, after all, in a few years, you’ll have to let go completely. Be clear about your expectations and limits.
2. Encourage Your Teenager To Make Informed Decisions
Rebellion at this stage is high on the priority list for most teens, and showing that she can make her own decisions is priority number one. Don’t retaliate by curbing her opportunities or by judging her decisions (however hard that may be). Show her the consequences of her choices and actions instead and help her find information and alternatives for a choice she may need to make. You won’t be able to do this for her all the time, but if you lay the foundation, she will build the rest of the house and continue to use this model.
3. Be Kind
Your child might be experiencing a variety of emotions ranging from good to not-so-good. Your support and more-so, your kindness will be invaluable through this time. Remember mistakes are likely to happen and your child might already feel awful about this. Offer constructive criticism or don’t offer any at all.
Regardless of your child’s age it’s important to set limits. There are very few children who gladly accept restrictions, but most do thrive with proper boundaries set for them. Be actively part of your growing child’s search for independence. Encourage her to communicate with you and deter temper tantrums by being open to alternatives rather than a flat-out no.
Some children are more confident in this area than others and for many it can be downright confusing. Regardless of your child’s nature, support and guide her. Be ready to goad her on and help shape her journey. Cementing good independent habits is much like teaching a child to ride a bike for the first time. Be ready to let go of the handlebars when she is set.