This article is Part 4 of the Being Independent series. Part 1: What is Independence, Part 2: Why do we need Independence, Part 3: Why do some peopel find it difficult to become independent?
There are many ways to go about teaching a child independence. Some of them are listed below:
1. Negative motivator: Remind the child they won’t have guardians forever
Whether it happens at age 16, 18, 21 or even over 30, there will come a day when a child will no longer have parents or guardians to look after them. It is essential that they know how to survive on their own in the world when that day comes, and keeping this in mind can motivate a person to learn independence.
2. Teach the child awareness about the things they will need to supply for themselves one day
As a parent, it is part and parcel of the role to show the child what tools they will need for independent survival. This includes things like money, food, shelter, safety, self-care, confidence and independent thinking.
3. Teach the child in baby steps to learn to take care of these things that they will one day need to supply for themselves
A few examples of baby steps a child can take over time:
- – Teaching a child to cross the road safely helps prepare them for independence in getting around outside on their own
- – Teaching a child how to identify and handle dangerous situations is required if they are ever to be independent
- – It is vital to teach a child that their opinions and independent thoughts are valid by encouraging and praising them, even if they disagree with you. Ask them their opinions on things, even simple ones like “What shall we make for dinner?”.
Sometimes it’s appropriate to encourage a child to think for themselves about a question they’ve asked you, rather than giving them the answer. You can guide them to the right resources and ask certain questions to help them get to an answer.
Allow them to develop their own self-expressive opinions, their own sense of style and sense of self. This includes allowing them at some stage to choose and then go buy their own clothes (although rules can be made such as adherence to a budget).
- – Teaching a child responsibility, accountability and consequences for their actions is an important part of learning independence.
- – Playing in the kitchen with a child helps them learn to cook for themselves. Depending on your living situation and your own skills as a parent, teaching how to grow your own food may be part of your child’s independence-training.
- – Passing on other survival skills you may have helps their independence: For example, getting your child involved in your DIY projects if you do any can help develop their independence.
- – Encouraging a child to do odd jobs and chores for money helps set up the concept of earning money.
- – Giving them responsibilities at home, school or even in the family business can help them learn how to do similar things when on their own in the world one day.
- – Passing on wisdom regarding social niceties which encourage healthy interdependence allow a child to learn interdependent independence.
- – Guide children but don’t control them. This is an important distinction that is essential to enable a child to develop independence. Some tools for guiding include a Socrates-like way of asking a child guiding questions which enable the child to reach the desired conclusions themselves, rather than spoon-feeding them the answer straight away.
- – Show the child how to use resources such as the internet or self-help books to enable them to find answers for themselves without relying on others.
4. Allow the child to occasionally make a mistake for learning purposes
Provided that making a mistake doesn’t involve life-threatening consequences, it is important for a child to occasionally learn from their own mistakes. Learning that there are consequences and stakes when making your own decisions is part of independent living. They need to learn to be held accountable for any mess they make, and need to learn how to overcome the messes they get themselves into.
5. Identify inhibitors of independence and work towards eliminating them
Parents need to develop an awareness of their own behaviour towards their chlidren if they’re going to encourage independence healthily.
If you notice a tendency to instil fear in a child because you are a bit overprotective, try to modify your behaviour. Identifying tendencies to be overcontrolling, undermining, patronising and mollycoddling should also be nipped in the bud if your goal is having an independent child. If a child has low self-esteem and lack of belief in their abilities to get on in the world on their own, try to assist them with this prevalent problem and prove they can get on in this world.
Supporting change from lack of independence to independence with Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Remedies are wonderful, gentle homeopathic-like support for a range of emotional conditions. For children, teenagers or anyone else undergoing the change from dependence to indepedence, the following Bach Flowers may be useful:
- Walnut: This flower helps accommodate any change going on in life.
- Hornbeam: This flower is great for helping you move away from procrastination and helps things move forward in life.
- Chestnut Bud: Helps shift inertia and encourages the desire to change.
- Chicory: This flower is suitable where a person is excessively demanding of love and attention, like a needy child who is unwilling to let go. At their extreme, chicory types may take offence to someone encouraging their independence because in their eyes they may see it as rejection. They are prone to using every trick in the book, from bribery to flattery, to extreme eagerness to “help”, to remain dependent.
- Cerato: This is helpful where there is lack of trust in one’s own decisions
- Mimulus : Where there is fear of a known thing, such as fear of failure, or fear of disconnection from a loved one due to independence, mimululs may help dissolve the intensity of the fear.
- Larch : This is helpful where there is a lack of confidence preventing independence
- Aspen: Helps deal with undefined fears where people are afraid to let go of dependence and don’t know why.
- Vervain : For parents who have strong feeling of “I know what’s best for you!” which may suppress a child’s independence.
- Vine : For overcontrolling parents to help them let go of control.
- Red Chestnut: For parents who are overconcerned for their child’s well-being and have a tendency to mollycoddle.
The bottom line on Being Independent
A parent’s role is crucial in allowing the development of healthy independence of their child.
Independence isn’t always fun to teach or to learn, but it’s essential for survival, self-esteem and happiness.
Whilst independence is of great importance, it is vital to keep in mind that no man is an island, and learning interdependent independence is also crucial for surviving in a social world.
This is a 4 part article:
Part 1: What is Independence?
Part 2: Why do we need independence?
Part 3: Why do some people find it difficult to become independent?
Part 4: Teaching Independence in Children
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Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this article is accurate. However the information contained in this article is for educational purposes only. Suggestions contained in this article are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a health professional. All matters regarding health and supplementation require medical supervision and careful examination of contraindications. The author does not accept responsibility for the use of this information, nor shall the author be liable for any loss, injury or damage allegedly arising from any information or suggestions in this article.