Fostering Independence In Young Children
Marta A. Gea Franca, LMFT
As children start having a better understanding of themselves as separate individuals from their parents, they are eager to explore the world around them. Toddlers experience a sense of independence and begin exploring the world around them with wonder. They learn the power of using the word “No” which becomes the most heard word by their parents during these early childhood years.
By age three, most children can choose the clothes they’d like to wear plus dress themselves and choose what they’d like to eat and not like to eat. Children will use sentences such as “No, I can do it by myself” to let parents know they don’t need any help.
Here are some quick tips to help parents to assist young children in developing their independence:
Tip 1. Allow children to do things by themselves.
One common mistake made by parents is habitually doing things that their children are able to do for themselves. By doing that, parents are sending children the message that they don’t trust that their children are able to do things by themselves which can end up affecting their self-confidence.
Tip 2. Allow children to make mistakes and experience the consequences.
Children learn from their mistakes. By allowing children to make mistakes, parents are contributing to the development of children self-esteem and empowerment.
Tip 3. Provide opportunities for children to make choices and appropriate decisions
Children feel empowered when they are allowed to make decisions. When parents listen and assist children to make appropriate decisions, they are contributing for the development of their children’s problem solving skills and increase their sense of self-worth.
Tip 4. Allow children to be children.
Society has high expectations for how children should behave, especially in public. Children should be allowed to walk around, be curious, laugh and play. Children will cry for different reasons when they are in public. Parents’ job is to be able to address the crying appropriately and, if it’s necessary, to remove crying children from the environment to help them to calm down. However, shutting down and prohibiting children from behaving as children in public can affect children’ self-esteem and interfere with the development of their independence.
By fostering children to develop independence, parents are greatly contributing to their success later in school and life. That is one of the greatest gifts parents can pass on to their children!