Our kids are our most valuable possession, and as new parents, we want to protect them and help them and grow them and see them succeed. We put signs in their bedroom that say things like, I would give you the world if I could. But what If someone told you that to raise good, self-reliant kids- you had to make life a bit hard on them? Would you believe them?
The important lessons in parenting are taught in the trenches- when things are hard, tears are shed and life generally sucks. Victories are wonderful, but kids need some adversity in order to learn to become independent overcomers.
To raise self- reliant kids who can think and do things for themselves- you shouldn’t give them the world- even if you could. You have to make them work for it. For some parents, these concepts come naturally, but for others (like me), we’ve had to learn them through trial and error.
Why Is it Important to Raise Independent Kids?
The importance of raising independent kids can hardly be measured. Not only will your child benefit socially and have increased self-esteem, but he will be a more functional part of the family as well, making the burden lighter and increasing your family’s happiness. If we do our job as parents, we will one day be out of a job (figuratively speaking)!
Raising disciplined, confident, and eventually independent kids takes work. It takes you not giving your kids things that you could easily give them, asking them to work for certain privileges, and letting them try things that you know they will likely fail at before they succeed. It takes guts, and pain and some hard times. But the upside to this is that you will have kids who can handle chores, and responsibilities on their own, making your life a bit easier. And you will raise adults who can think, reason, and do for themselves one day.
Follow these 4 basic steps below to quickly increase your child’s independence at any age!
1. Show them unconditional love-
Unconditional love is essential to raising an healthy, independent child. Children who know that their parents will love them no matter how they perform, tend to have better self-esteem. In her article Self Esteem, Unconditional Love, and Child Discipline, Rebecca Eanes discusses what questions the child’s heart may be confronted with when considering his relationship with his parents:
“Am I accepted?”
“Do you love me even when I break a rule or show defiance or have an epic tantrum? You say you do, but do I feel it?”
“Are we connected?”
“Do you see my light, even when I’m not shinning it?”
“Can I trust you with my big feelings?”
“Can you respect me even though I am little?”
“Can you handle me at my worst?”
(Rebecca Eanes of Rootsofaction.com)
Increased self-esteem often goes hand in hand with growing up to be independent and confident in life because the child learns from an early age that he is loved, and therefore he has been given the strength to become confidently independent as he grows.
2. Give your kids jobs that only they are responsible for.
Giving kids jobs that no one else has gives them a sense of responsibility and ownership. It also teaches them that the family relies on them to complete this job, which can give them a sense of pride (eventually!).
Jobs could include things like, sweeping the floor, cleaning off the table tops and dusting, loading and unloading the dishwasher, tidying up the entryway and organizing the coats and shoes.
– Let them do at least one job each day that you don’t correct.
Have you ever had an experience where someone asks you to do something, and they tell you how you are doing it all wrong before you’ve even finished? I have and, maybe I am just sensitive, but it stinks! In fact, it makes me not want to do anything in front of that person again because I want to avoid their correction and criticism.
I have always had trouble giving my kids jobs to do because I often find that they way they did something was not they way I would do it, and the job wasn’t done they way I liked it. But really, we want our kids to do jobs to learn, and have a sense of responsibility, not to do things exactly like we would do it! After all, you are raising individuals, not clones of yourself.
So step back, and let them do the job. The sooner we realize that our kids have unique talents and thoughts to bring to the table, we’ll all be a lot better off seeing our kids for who they really are.
– Only correct when necessary, and do it the right way!
Maybe the counter and the floor are all wet with dirty dishwater after your son loads the dishes, and of course he has left to play video games. Your gut reaction may be to get irritated and call him back to confront him about it. However, its best to not immediately point out what he did wrong. It would be better to quietly wipe up the mess, and the next time he is loading the dishwasher say to him, “let me help you wipe down the counter and the floor.” This is showing him that it is part of the job, but not directly calling him out something that he missed. Kids are smart, your son will understand that this is part of his job as well. If he keeps forgetting, then stopping his fun time to come back and clean up the mess would be OK too!
3. Give your kids something that only they care for- like a pet!
I love animals, and I understand that not everyone does. However, I will make the argument that having a pet can be a fantastic teaching tool for children! You could let your child have anything from a horse (provided you have the land and space already), a dog or a cat, all they way down to an ant farm! Almost any pet that your child likes will do the trick. Pets do a wonderful job of teaching our kids to focus on and take care of something other than themselves. Not to mention they teach a child about love, life and death, etc. In the right situation, a pet is a fantastic thing for a child.
4. Let them fail
One of my children has always had an issue with failure. In our family though, we don’t call it failure- we just call it learning. If you stop and think about how people learn, you will realize that in order to learn the right way to do something, you must fail at it- often more than once! In other words, failure is an absolutely normal part of learning!
By putting our kids into situations that are likely to tackle them, we are teaching them that they must be quicker, faster, smarter and more strategic the next time they take on that challenge. In fact, teaching them that they will lose sometimes and how to handle it, is essential for raising a well rounded child. Teaching them this lesson is one of the best things we could do for them.
Raising independent and confident kids is no easy task. It takes hard work, consistency and dedication. However the 4 steps above will give any parent the basic framework to getting started on the important work ahead!
Standing strong together as moms,