Growing Independence in Young Children

It is the goal of every parent to have a healthy, happy, self-assured, and independent child.

Parents also want to create a home environment that lays the foundation for creating this type of child.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are several steps parents can take to help their child develop independence which can lead to creating a self-assured, happy, and independent child:

  • Open and honest communication with your child is important and can lead to a lifelong closeness with your child.
  • Routines and responsibilities will let your child know what to expect. When a rule is broken, a natural consequence needs to follow. Set Limits. When children do something against the rules, explain simply and in a few words what they did wrong.  Children need to be told the consequences of continuing this negative behavior.   For example: If your child rides a bike without a helmet, the bike is off limits for a day or two. When your child won’t share a toy, that toy can’t be used for the rest of the day.
  •  Learning how to be a good friend is also an important social skill you can teach your child. Your child is starting to explore the world outside your home. This is exciting, but can be scary! Children from 4 to 6 years old are beginning to develop their independence and form real friendships that can last a lifetime.
  • Create and Keep Routines. Teach about rules by setting up daily and nightly routines. Children do best when they know what to expect.
  • Schedule specific times for TV, video games, and use of the computer. When you know what your child is watching, you can avoid violence and other unacceptable content. Try to limit “total screen time” to no more than 2-3 hours a day.
  • Read at bedtime. This helps your child to settle down after a busy day and plants the seeds for a love of books.
  • Have meals together as much as possible. This is a great way to spend time together and share family traditions, while also teaching good eating habits and table manners.
  • Take Time to Talk and Listen to your child.  Children feel important when adults take the time to talk with them. Talking often, and about many things, helps them gain self-confidence. Ask about friendships and the activities that your child enjoys. Talk about your own best and worst experiences. Let your child know that it’s OK to have and talk about negative feelings. Share the best and hard parts of your day. This teaches your child that we all have ups and downs.
  • Assign Responsibility to your child.  When young children copy everyday household tasks, they are really learning how to contribute. With your support, tasks will soon be done with few reminders. As children grow older you can assign simple task such as putting away their toys, setting the table, taking out the trash, making their bed, and/or feeding the pet.  Your child’s self-esteem will grow when you acknowledge their help with an assigned task.

There are few things more rewarding than knowing you are helping to lay the foundation for your child’s future success as an independent and well adjusted adult.  Unfortunately, there is no exact blueprint for each child, but the above suggestions will certainly get you on the right path.