Parenting strategies have been studied for over 50 years and come in all shapes and sizes- “Helicopter Parenting,” “Authoritarian Parenting, “ “Dolphin Parenting,” “Elephant Parenting, “Attachment Parenting,” and the list goes on. Research does its best to provide us with the most effective strategies for how to raise an independent child. Sometimes with too much information though (and often conflicting), we find our heads are spinning with self-doubt, confusion, and worry that we aren’t raising our kids “right.” Everyday is an opportunity for growth, but it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Here are some minor shifts you can make in your daily routine to raise an independent child comfortably, and naturally.
Start with Awareness
When we want our child to shift their behavior, there is great power in adults changing their behavior first. But what do we change? Where do we start? Far too often we are overwhelmed and stretched thin by taking care of every little task or rescuing every emergency that running a household requires. Slow down, take a breath, and pay attention to responsibilities you could pass on to your child. This small act of building mindful awareness can provide large opportunities for future change. Does your child brush their own teeth? Do they buckle their own seatbelt? Do they choose which pajamas they wear at night? Though teaching a child these skills is time consuming in the short-term, we benefit in the long-term by giving ourselves more time, reducing frustration, and providing opportunities for our child to foster their self-confidence. Start with building awareness around what responsibilities you can let go of and pass on to your child.
Then Move Toward Acceptance
Many times we step in to help our children when we observe them facing fear, frustration, or any type of discomfort. Their discomfort can lead to our discomfort, so we step in and rescue them quickly to minimize pain all around. Accepting their discomfort, and accepting our discomfort in situations can go a long way (while most importantly, ensuring everyone is safe and well cared for). When we accept discomfort, we can learn to tolerate it and mindfully respond to situations from a problem-solving perspective versus a reactionary, “put out the fire,” frame of mind.
When working to raise an independent child, this part takes practice. Again, slow down, take a breath, and pay attention to times you may be interfering with your child’s ability to problem-solve and respond to challenges on their own. Acts as simple as letting your child try harder to reach that lego piece that is stuck under the couch, or continuing to practice putting their own shoes on can make a huge difference in the long run. Learning any new skill can create uncomfortable feelings, but with more opportunities to learn, those feelings will fade and can be replaced with confidence and independent decision-making skills.
Make Sure You Encourage Your Child!
Not only is it important to provide opportunities for independence and growth, but offering them emotional support along the way can help motivate them. Children do not always know what they are capable of accomplishing, and we can support them by being their cheerleader and encouraging them to face challenges and accomplish goals. Do we believe they can accomplish the task at hand? Maybe not, but children will often surprise us if they are given the opportunity to try. Facing failure is not a great feeling, but it is a part of life. The more we can support and encourage our children to try new things, experience failure, and learn from past mistakes, the more skills we are giving them to be independent and life-long learners.
These shifts might not sound comfortable or natural to you, yet. Role-modeling goes a long way in parenting and when children can observe you trying new skills and persevering through the discomfort, they can better learn how to tolerate and grow from discomfort as well. Become aware, accept the challenges, and encourage yourself! There are many opportunities on any given day for your child to learn independent life-skills, and you will experience the benefits of your child’s self-sufficiency for many days to come.
If you would like extra guidance and support on your parenting journey to raise an independent child, please reach out to North Shore Family Services. We are happy to help you and your family reach your goals!