When it comes to values that we should instill in our children, independence and responsibility tend to be at the top of the list. However, it can be hard to strike the balance between tending to our babies and fostering independence.
Thankfully, there are a few things we can do to encourage our little ones to grow into strong-minded and independent adults. “Independent thinking children develop higher levels of confidence and have increased self-esteem,” says Carole Kramer Arsenault, a licensed family therapist who is the founder and CEO of Boston Baby Nurse. “Children who are independent thinkers use their own experiences to interpret the world instead of believing everything they are taught by parents, teachers, society, etc.”
Below, I will list 7 things you can do to raise an independent child.
1. Model independent thinking.
The best way to teach behavior is to model it. While part of what kids learn is what they hear, most of a child’s learning will come from what they subconsciously pick up. The majority of subconscious learning is through what kids see/hear us do.
2. Build a strong connection.
It might seem counterproductive to focus on building connection when teaching independence, but when your child feels a strong connection to you, they feel more secure in themselves. Children need to feel secure to feel confident, at least in the beginning. As they get older, they will become more and more independent.
3. Let your kids have a voice.
There was once a time when kids were told to be quiet, as a form of respect. However, now we realize how damaging it is to a child to shut them down and invalidate their voice. Not to mention that your child needs practice with independent thinking and expression. Encourage them to (respectfully) voice their opinion.
4. Give them chores.
When you delegate chores to your child, you are teaching them responsibility. Not only that, but you are helping them to feel more comfortable with themselves and thus feel more secure and confident.
5. Focus on values, not rules.
Rules are limits for the world, while values will give your child the ability to internalize their values and principles. So, make values a major focus in your home and discuss what they mean and why they are important to your child. Ask them what values are most important to them and why. Additionally, you can ask them how they intend to align with their values.
6. Introduce other good role models.
Make sure your child has other people in their life that are good influences. While it’s great to want your child to be like you-make sure they have picked up on other good people as well.
7. Offer choices.
When you can offer choices. For example, while they may not get a say in when they go to bed, you can offer them choices about their routine to get ready for bed. “Would you like to brush your teeth or put on your pajamas first?” By doing this, you are giving them a voice and fostering independence.