How to Teach Your Children Independence

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When my son was 15 months old, he had a babysitter who taught him how to put away his toys before he took something else out. One day when I was done working, I went to pick him up on my way home. As soon as he saw me, he started picking up what he was playing with, put the cover on the box and put the box on the shelf. Then he ran over and gave me a huge welcome. I was floored!

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He doesn’t do that at home! My babysitter who I now thought was an angel had worked with him that week teaching him how to put things away before he took out the next toy. From that day on, I realized what my son was capable of. Now, he had put toys away before, but this was different. He did it with no help and no one had to ask him.

This little bit of independence was great for both of us. He was proud of what he was accomplishing, and I was ecstatic that I had less to pick up around the house.

I am an entrepreneur and I work from home with my children around. I struggle on a daily basis trying to decide what my priorities are for the day. I want time to move ahead with my business, yet I also want to spend time with my children. How do I find the time to get other things accomplished? It is a mother’s dream to raise children who pick up after themselves.

Now I have to admit, this idea of picking up worked better for the babysitter than it did for me, at first. However, I learned a lesson that day. My children are capable of doing things on their own if I teach them how to do it and am consistent with expecting them to be independent.

Raising independent children is helping all of us in so many ways. If my children can accomplish things on their own, then I don’t need to be distracted from what I am doing every few minutes to help them with something.

The independence seems to be helping my children as well. Instead of having to ask for something, they know they can just get it or do it themselves. They are very confident children and tend to teach their friends how to be independent, too. The more they do on their own, the more they realize they can do, and the more they want to do.

Here are some ways that I have learned to teach my children independence:

1. We have a snack cabinet in our house that I placed on a low shelf where everyone can reach. I only keep healthy snacks there. (The unhealthier ones go up high). My children must eat at designated snack times, but they are allowed to help themselves. We started this at a very young age and believe it or not, it rarely gets abused. When it does, I leave well enough alone. After all the snacks are healthy.

2. When my children ask for help with something, I way the odds. Are they asking for help because they need my attention, or are they asking for help because they really don’t think they can do it themselves?

If they are looking for attention, I give it to them. After all, nurturing is what my children need from me the most. If they think they need help but I feel they could do it themselves, I will ask them a question like, “Well, what do you think we could do to make you taller so you can reach it?” The answer would be to move over the chair and climb up. Without even answering, they just run right over and move the chair. All they needed was a simple suggestion to trigger their minds.

3. Encouragement and praise both go a long way with children (and adults, actually). Whenever the opportunity arises I encourage my children to pitch in. They love to “cook dinner”. Really they are helping me, but I try to make them feel like I am just helping them. We both gain from this experience.

No matter how small their attempt, if they give it their best shot, I praise them highly for their efforts. The more praise they receive, the more they seem to want to try.

I also make sure to thank them for doing it on their own. If what they are doing helps me, I make sure to show my appreciation for what they are doing.

Teaching independence certainly takes consistency and an effort on my part, but the results are two-fold. I find that when my children can do things for themselves, it makes my life a little easier. I am also finding that my children are learning a great deal of confidence and self-reliance in knowing that they can accomplish so much on their own. My children are learning much more about themselves and their capabilities than I ever had as a child, and we are all happy for that.

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