Encourage Independence in your Children

In order to save time when it comes to performing everyday tasks, we tend to take over from our children. What this achieves is signal to them that what they are doing is not good enough. The result being that your children will find it that much harder to be independence or self-sufficient.

Learning to let go

Believe it or not, the first step in helping your children find independence is to for you to let go! If you see them fail to tie their laces a fifth time, you cannot just swoop in and do it for them. You need to back off and give your child a chance to do things for themselves. This is the only way that they will believe you when you tell them that they are capable. It will also boost their confidence. There are so many things that your child might be able to do for themselves and even though doing it yourself will take care of it much faster, it won’t make your children more self-sufficient. So, the first step is to decide that enough is enough. You will let things go and help your children start on the road to being an independent adult.

Preparing to go it alone

You can do this in steps:

  • Encourage your child and give them notice before having them do anything on their own. Telling them that since they are a big kid now, they can handle some chores and is much better than calling them a baby.
  • Once they know what is coming, you need to start looking for opportunities for things that they can do on their own. Draw up a list and put tasks, such as brushing their teeth on their own. Another good idea is to ask them about the tasks that they would be interested in trying out.
  • You need to avoid overwhelming your children, so trying one task at a time will be more effective teaching than trying everything at once.
  • You need to be ready for these things to take a lot of time. In order to not discourage the children or hurry them, you will have to make time. If doing their own hair for school takes them 10 minutes, then simply start everything 10 minutes earlier. No micromanaging and you being a calm influence will surprisingly produce results that are more positive.


Putting away toys

Do not be a helicopter parent and never stop hovering around your children. Overprotecting a child can lead to self-esteem issues later in life. To help them be independent, you will have to help your children become self-sufficient and self-confident at an early age. One way of making that happens is by avoiding putting away their toys after they are done playing. Your 2-year-old should know how to store their toys properly once they are done. Some ideas for storage include

  • Plastic containers
  • Shoe boxes
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Baskets
  • Desk organizers
  • Ice-cream containers
  • Shoe racks

Another important lesson that needs to be learned as early is that if your child is careless with their toys and breaks them, then there will be consequences. This will also encourage them to put away their toys safely.


While a child that is 6 or younger should not be left in the bathroom on their own, you can always help them learn how to wash themselves through supervision. If your child is five, then they should know how to perform basic washing tasks, such as drying off after they have taken a bath and washing their hands before a meal. Again, dividing the whole process into smaller steps will help them grasp the routine much quicker.

Setting the table

The best way to teach your children how to set the table is by making your kitchen child friendly. That means the plates and cups should be within easy reach. Refrain from doing any part of the process yourself and let them figure things out once you have shown them what goes where. It helps speed up things, if you use printable placemats for them to use initially. You can get some ideas for the placemats here.

Learning to feed

Research shows that when children were allowed to serve themselves, they learn about portion sizes and how much they need to eat to satiate their hunger. To teach your children how to feed themselves:

  • You will need to start as early as around 6-9 months. Once they are able to pick stuff up using their hands, let them feed themselves with finger food, bits of fruit, and grated vegetables etc.
  • Have them feed themselves with a spoon but be ready for it to end in a mess. A 3-year old should be able to feed themselves with a fork.
  • Next, you will need to pass over the control of your children’s cup/bottle to them, slowly but definitely.

Learning to get dressed

Initially, it will take your children some time to grasp all there is about getting dressed on their own. However, soon you will come to realize that it was time well spent. Since it will take them a few tries to independently start dressing themselves, you will have to be patient and guide them through the process. To help speed things up, at least in the beginning, you can get their clothes ready the night before. Then when they wake up in the morning, you can both focus on one task i.e. getting dressed. Design a small routine for them:

  • Using the bathroom is the first thing on the list
  • Brushing teeth comes next
  • Then, taking off Pyjama’s needs to happen
  • The last bit is to get into the fresh clothes

You need to remember that to encourage your children to become independent, you will first need to show them how to do things. Then, sit on the side-lines and guide them only if they need you to do so, which they will…several times. It is similar to the instructions on a bottle of shampoo: lather, rinse, and repeat!

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.

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