As with many other character traits, children develop independence at their own pace. There is no right or wrong time to help your child develop this skill, but once he or she does, life tends to become easier — for both of you.
Stop doing everything for them
Children are less likely to develop the skills of an independent person if they have everything done for them. Even if you’re doing things for your children out of love and the best of intentions, you may actually be hindering their developmental process. By all means, help your children learn new things — but then step back and allow them to handle tasks and skills all by themselves. This can lead to newfound confidence, which can in turn help your children become more independent.
Make sure the tasks you give your children are age appropriate so as to encourage success and thus a desire within your children to become more independent. For example, young children can begin with small tasks like dressing themselves, brushing their teeth and putting their toys away. Older children can be expected to make their bed, clean their room and help with household duties as well as tackle homework on their own (for the most part). Instead of simply reading a book to them every night, encourage a love of learning by asking them to read along with you — even if the process takes twice as long!
Offer them an outlet for growth
Before your child gets too far behind in school or in an extracurricular activity, take steps to help him or her catch up and even excel. Employ the services of an after-school learning center, such as Kumon Math and Reading Programs, which focus on helping childrenbecome confident, independent self-learners. Alternatively, ask the coach of your child’s sports team to spend some extra time practicing with your child outside of regular practice times. When your child feels successful in school or extracurricular activities, he or she is more likely to display traits of independence.
Give them a chance to prove themselves
Many children may not express a desire for independence due to fear of failure or lack of self-esteem. If you never give your children a challenge or an opportunity to do something on their own, they may not have the self-esteem required to become independent. Assign them responsibilities and urge them to rise to the challenge and then go above and beyond what is expected of them. If your child shows a specific skill or interest in a subject in school or in a sport, encourage him or her to get involved to a deeper degree (like by studying for a spelling bee or trying out for a school team).
Open the doors of communication
In your quest to help your child become an independent person, make sure that he or she knows you are there to provide help or answer questions. Don’t make children feel abandoned so they have to do things for themselves. Rather, they should feel the support and encouragement of their parents so they know they can do things for themselves.