5 ways to raise an independent child

Being self-reliant, one of the themes in the Junction Tree series, is an important part of your child’s journey to adulthood. Help them handle life’s challenges with these tips.

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When she has free play in school, Ashley Tan, 5, takes the art materials from the shelves, then creates an animal mask with them. Once she’s done, she looks at her masterpiece with pride. However, her fellow classmate, James Yip, breaks down in tears when he can’t find his favourite truck in its usual place.

As parents, we hope to nurture a child like Ashley – one who is strong, responsible and capable of handling challenges independently. However, when a situation like James’ happens, we tend to rush to junior’s help almost immediately. You may not realise this, but by hovering over your child’s every move and protecting them from every threat that they may encounter, you’re hindering their ability to build their independence.

“If you really want your child to become self-sufficient and thrive without you, your role must be of a guider, not doer.”

Confucius once said, “The most beautiful sight in the world is a child going confidently down the road of life after you have shown the way.” Teaching your kiddo to rely on themselve from early childhood helps them manage their emotions and behaviour in the long run.

A child who is independent is also more likely to excel in their studies, develop better social skills and make better choices, which will greatly contribute to their success later in life. Moreover, you wouldn’t want to spend your retirement supporting an adult child, would you?

#1 Guide junior, not do things for them

“If you really want your child to become self-sufficient and thrive without you, your role must be of a guider, not doer,” notes educational psychologist Dr Michele Borba. Instead of jumping in and doing all the work when junior seeks your help, guide them by breaking down the task into steps. Not only will it feel like they’ve accomplished, but their confidence level and sense of independence will increase. If you have an older child at home, guide them to mentor the younger one and both children will benefit from this interaction.

#2 Provide opportunity and time

Never do for a child what he is capable of doing for himself,” advises Elizabeth G Hainstock, author of Teaching Montessori in the Home. Don’t underestimate your little one’s abilities. Cleaning up their play area, wiping up spills and making their bed are some of the things that junior can do independently.

Provide a child-friendly environment that encourages independence, for instance, have themed toy bins for easy clean-ups and ensure essentials like water, tissue paper and stationery are within his reach. Carve out some extra time, when needed, for them to complete their task. Suggests Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, “Watch your child's daily routine and ask yourself, ‘What changes can I make to allow him to complete this task without my help?’”