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Building Independence

Never underestimate what your child is capable of, even at a really young age. It is never too early to start building independence just one task at a time.

In this blog, I share with you a few simple ways that you can start building independence and stop being so heavily relied upon to do everything for your child. You may already be doing things that allows your child to complete tasks on their own and if this is the case, celebrate here for a moment!

By letting children do things on their own, there are many excellent and lifelong benefits. It allows your child to feel confident, self-reliant and take ownership over their belongings and their choices. Building independence not only helps your child to feel in control of their lives, it promotes risk-taking and problem-solving.

Right, so what exact tasks do I mean when I say to you to start encouraging independence?

1. My number one tip is to STOP CARRYING THEIR BAG! As a teacher of children in their first year of school I see many parents making mistakes. The one that I would wish they would change is when they carry their child’s bag from the car to the classroom. Do you know why? Because their child CAN carry their own bag! In fact, children do it themselves once parents leave them at school. Now, I know school bags can be big, bulky and heavy at times, but really, are we making our kids walk for 10kms with it? Please, stop carrying it for them and let them do it as it will help them feel ownership over their belongings.

2. Similar to carrying their bag, you know what else they can do from a very young age? They can pack and unpack their bag! This promotes a sense of ownership over their belongings also. Like, “this is my hat, my drink bottle and my jumper”. The amount of times at school I hear a child say, “My mum forgot to pack my hat!” It drives me insane! Yes, now as a mum too, I do remind my own children to remember to have everything packed for school but do you know how many times I have physically put my child’s lunchbox in his bag?….Once! He is now 10yrs old.

I just want to pause on the tips for a second because we need to talk about an elephant in the room here… some children WANT to be independent and some children are so very happy for an adult to do it all for them. I can hear some of you say, “Look Chalkie, if I don’t do it for him, it won’t get done!” And I say to you, “Ok, well what is the worst that can happen? Your son doesn’t pack his hat so he has to play undercover at school that day. Sad, I know, but will that kill him? Will that help him learn something? Because I know the answer is ‘yes’ he will learn… to remember his hat the next day!”

So, please remember that at school, your child is most likely expected and encouraged to do things for his or herself. Teachers have a great way of modelling and demonstrating how to do something and then asking students to have a go themselves while the teacher is there to help where needed. Then, lots of positive encouragement is given and any attempts or effort is praised. This is how we get our children to try to be independent and know that there isn’t always a perfect outcome or product but we are proud of their efforts and are here for them if they need assistance.

3. Ok, back to the tasks that children can do… When your child comes home from school or soccer practice, they can unpack their bags, empty their lunchboxes and put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Once again, remember to do it while they watch, watch them do it and praise their efforts and then you will see very quickly that they are doing it all the time without help.

4. Cleaning their rooms… Even from a young age, children can learn to look after their things and keep their rooms tidy. Again, this promotes ownership of their belongings and encourages a little pride in our special places. We all know that when they become teenagers their rooms will likely resemble that of a dark, smelly cave than a bedroom but we can set them up for success even as toddlers to successfully and independently keep a tidy room. First thing here is to have a home for everything. Tubs, baskets or drawers for all their clothes, shoes, books, toys and special trinkets. If you know where everything goes, then you can help them to put everything back when it is not being used. We can start when they are babies getting them to put toys away in the basket as a game and as part of their play, then as they get older and each time they get out something we make it part of the process that it gets put away when they are finished with it (and maybe before they get something else out or the pack up will look and feel very overwhelming!).

To ensure your child is willing to give it all a go on their own, remember to;

1. Do it for them (talking about what you are doing) while they watch

2. Do it together and again, talk about what you are doing so it is clear;

3. Then watch them and acknowledge their efforts.

Plenty of praise for your child when they have attempted to pack away or tidy up, even if it isn’t quite right can go a long way. The point is we are encouraging the independence and not focusing on the outcome in order to ensure they will have another go the next time. So, if you are a parent feeling like you are doing everything for your child, think about some of these tips or other tasks you think your child could have a go at and start showing them the way. It will help them in life and it sure will help you today!



Hi! I’m Chalkie.

I want to empower you to feel confident as a parent and to help you gain clarity about your parenting role!

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