What can you do to help your kids become happy, successful, self-sufficient adults? Check out these great tips on how to raise independent kids!
Once you become a parent, you are on the journey to let your kids grow up and leave the house.
I’ll admit, it doesn’t seem like this when you are diapering babies or running after toddlers, but the goal of parenting is to raise kids to become healthy, self-sufficient adults!
Part of the process involves teaching your kids to be independent.
This does not happen in one instant or overnight, but, like most everything else in parenting, comes from consistent lessons taught through the years while your kids grow up.
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Why do you need to help kids be independent?
If you’re not convinced that you need to do this, here are some reasons why you should be striving to help your kids be independent:
- learn how to make decisions
- see mistakes and grow from them (with your help)
- gain confidence in themselves and their choices
- learn things by themselves
Self-esteem doesn’t develop from a bunch of empty praise but from achievement, growth, and perseverance.
When you help your kids grow in independence, you are also helping them develop strong, healthy self-esteem.
Being a parent means slowly letting go of control and guidance and moving your kids toward independence.
So, what should you do to help your kids grow up and become independent?
How to raise independent kids
Give age-appropriate responsibilities
In other words, stop doing everything for them.
Take advantage of your little kids’ desire to help. They want to help you. Let them!
Just be prepared to be very patient and understand that the result will not be “perfect.”
Have her help make the bed, but don’t agonize over having perfectly tucked sheets or corner folds.
My 2 girls started gaining independence at an early age.
I let them do things like:
- choose their own clothing
- cut veggies during meal prep
- get things out of the oven (while I supervised)
- paint their own nails
Basically, anything they could do (but not necessarily perfectly!) or wanted to try, I let them (while making sure they stay safe).
Wondering if your kids can take some more responsibility? Ask yourself these questions:
- make their own bed?
- choose their own clothes? (even if they don’t match)
- get their own drink or snack? (put snacks within easy reach)
- clean their room/put away their toys? (in simple, easy to reach bins)
- water plants?
- sweep the floor?
If they don’t know how to do these things yet, can you teach them?
My 3-year-old has been choosing her own outfits since she was around 18 months old. (In fact, for several weeks she chose the same ratty Elsa dress every single day. Much to my chagrin.)
My 5-year-old helps me take things out of the oven, stir food on the stove, open Amazon boxes, and get snacks for her little sister.
They are both (often) eager to help!
Related: Chores for Kids: Ideas for Each Age
Set them up for success
If you want your kids to help, you need to set them up for success. They won’t be able to do things as adults do them, but that doesn’t mean with some help and preparation that they can’t do the job!
Help your kids by:
- keeping snacks on a low shelf they can access
- having stools they can use (to wash hands, help in the kitchen, reach items)
- put their toys and clothes in easy-to-open drawers/bins and on low bars in the closet
- have smaller, kid-sized versions of items (smaller utensils, cups, knives, etc.). (for example, these safety knives are great for your wanna-be-mini-chef!)
Keep letting go
As kids grow, keep teaching them new things and letting them have more and more independence.
More independence can look like:
- having weekly chores/tasks that they need to accomplish
- letting them organize their own schedule
- having them plan meals (and eventually cook them!)
- giving independent, unstructured playtime
- letting them choose which extra-curricular activities they like
Related: 16 life skills all kids should know before leaving home
Give them choices
Giving kids limited choices helps them learn to be confident in their decisions, but without the overwhelming feeling that can come from too many choices.
Let them make choices on their own. (Yes, the blue shirt clashes with the pink polka dot pants and the Paw Patrol socks, but let them enjoy it while they can!)
I don’t fight over clothes at my house and I’ve seen crazy things! (Like the time my 5-year-old insisted on wearing a fancy princess costume dress – complete with a tiara! – to church!)
Let them make mistakes
You also need to let them make mistakes.
When they are doing something, don’t hover and point out all the things they are doing wrong.
Don’t always intervene when they are making mistakes.
Teach them failure is a part of life and that the only time you actually “fail” is when you give up.
I often tell my girls, “Everyone makes mistakes,” when I spill something or break something. My 5-year-old has repeated this phrase to me when I’m frustrated sometimes.
I don’t make it a big deal. I just say “Let’s see if we can fix this” or “Let’s clean this up together.”
Let them solve problems with little help
Instead of jumping in to always fix things, let your kids struggle a bit to try and figure it out themselves. You can ask specific questions to guide them to solve the problem.
I sometimes say to my 5-year-old “You can figure this out” when she comes to me for help or is frustrated and I know she can try a bit harder.
If I let her be for a while, she often does figure it out and the look of satisfaction on her face is priceless!
I might also give her a hint if she needs it, but I don’t let her stay frustrated for too long either as that can make her lose confidence.
Letting them solve their own problems teaches them responsibility and confidence. (Hey, I can figure this out on my own!)
Hold them accountable
As your kids grow, they need to understand that actions have consequences.
Accountability is important because kids learn that they need to be responsible for their choices and their effect on others.
When my kids make a mess, I have them clean it up (and I often help because they are still quite little). We have a house rule that we have to clean up one set of toys before getting out another.
Praise effort and determination
Successful adults are the ones that don’t give up but persevere towards their goals. Help your kids learn independence by praising their effort.
I love how you kept going and persevered until you finished building that hard puzzle!
You kept climbing that rock wall even though it was hard at first!
On bad days, help your kids out. Don’t expect perfection and also show then that you really are there for them.
Related: How to Raise Resilient Kids
Encourage them to try new things
Help your kids get out of their comfort zone by giving them opportunities to try new things. I try to take my girls to new places (museums, parks, concerts) and let them try new things whenever possible.
You don’t have to go somewhere exotic. Look in your local community center or library for advertisements for activities or classes of things they can try. There are a lot of fun and exciting things kids can do (and many are free!).
If your children are nervous or shy, you can help by going with them and modeling how to do new things (and gently, firmly encouraging them but not forcing).
Be positive and encouraging
Finally, be positive and encouraging in general.
Show, by example, that you love life and that you are ok with making mistakes and learning.
Your kids will pick up on your attitude and example more than anything else.
Don’t let them see mistakes as failures, but merely opportunities to learn and grow!
Related: Anger Management for Moms
Related: How to Help Your Kids Develop a Growth Mindset
Remember, your goal in life is to help your kids become healthy, happy, successful adults! This means you need to teach them how to do things and let them be independent. I’d love to hear what you are doing to raise independent kids! What are your best tips?