Posts

By Amy Steele, LCSW, LAC, RPT, February 12, 2019 –

Independence and self-reliance are valuable skills to equip children with as they grow. We want them to be able to take care of themselves and not have to rely on others meet their needs. 

To nurture and develop those skills we have to start early in childhood.  Starting as young as age 1 or 2, begin to give children small, simple tasks and encourage them in their efforts.  This takes consistency and day-to-day nurturing. It is not always easy and can sometimes be time consuming. 

Most parents can recall a time when doing something for their child was easier, quicker, or more peaceful than having the child do it.  Yet, each time we choose to do something for our child that they are capable of doing for themselves, we are taking away the chance for them to build confidence in their ability and learn important life skills on their way to independence and self-reliance.

Here are some tips for fostering independence in your child:

  • Consider opportunities. Identify tasks that are age-appropriate and safe (be sure to provide proper supervision when needed). Making a list of tasks can be helpful for you and your child.
  • Pre-plan to allow for extra time and the probability that there will be mistakes.  It’s easier for us to be calm and patient with the effort when we are not pressed for time.
  • Prioritize and go slow.  Pick one task at a time so your child isn’t overwhelmed.
  • Work together. Initially it may be good to share the task, especially if your child is resistant to the idea.
  • Give choices. Making choices is part of being independent. Allowing them to pick between two simple choices acceptable to you gives them pride and practice. (i.e. “Do you want to put the spoons or the forks out as we set the table?”)
  • Perfection is not the goal. Accept that it won’t be done as well as you could do it. If messes are made use it as another learning experience. Show your child how to clean it up with patience and understanding, assuring them that it happens to everyone.
  • Encourage problem solving. When questions come up, encourage them to come up with solutions to minor issues, even if they need to think about it a little, instead of rushing in and taking care of it for them.

Some appropriate tasks for children ages 2-3 include picking up toys and books, putting dirty laundry in the designated spot, throwing away trash, partially (working up to fully) dressing themselves, removing shoes and putting them away, and dusting with a sock on their hand. Kids ages 4-5 can make their bed, clean out things under their bed, feed pets, water plants, clear dishes from the table and wipe up their area.

At age 6-7 kids can sweep the floor, empty the dishwasher, gather trash from different rooms, fold clothes and towels and match socks.  By 8-9 years of age kids can walk the dog, bring empty garbage cans up from the curb, sweep the porch, put groceries away, and tackle simple cooking and baking with parental supervision. 

Encouraging independence at a young age, not doing for your child what they can do for themselves, will build confidence and self-reliance that they can build on as they grow.

By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW, November 29, 2018 –

My son perfected his excuses for missing homework around sixth grade, and for some reason it became my problem.  That’s a strange thing for a parent to say, but I really felt as though teachers were accusing me of not being an adequate parent because I couldn’t ensure my child completed his homework at home.

This created a dynamic between the teachers and me, allowing my son to step back and play his games while I hashed it out with school.  Everyone was working harder for his success, and he had manipulated me into believing he was the victim.  It was toward the end of his eighth-grade year that I admitted defeat, and finally realized the problem was ME.

I was not listening to the information given to me by the teacher, because in my head, I was being told “You are a bad parent” – and it was hurtful.  The tone of my voice when talking about the teacher became negative, and my son fueled this.  He even went to school and told his teachers, “My mom doesn’t like you, and it makes her mad when you call her.”  I was my own worst enemy.

Taking a look at how I responded to teacher concerns was a big help for me.  Instead of taking the information as a personal attack, I reminded myself the teacher was attempting to form a positive alliance to determine why he was not turning in homework.  I hadn’t taught my son to be accountable and take responsibility for his actions.

Here are some suggestions for teaching this skill:

  1. Model positive communication with the teacher, and encourage the same from your child. When your child begins making negative statements about their teacher, redirect them to think about things they like about the teacher.
  2. Practice appropriate responses. There is an appropriate time and way to let the teacher know your child needs help or you don’t agree with a decision.
  3. Help your child see things from another’s point of view. This is particularly helpful for students who believe their teacher doesn’t like them.
  4. Do not make excuses for your child. Teach them to own their mistakes.  Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s alright.  Teach your child to admit their mistakes, then think of ways to prevent it from happening again.
  5. Encourage your child to process their feelings appropriately. It is perfectly normal to become upset, but it isn’t appropriate to throw a fit in the classroom.  Practice ways your child can excuse themselves from the classroom in order to calm down.  Discourage yelling, throwing things, slamming the door, and calling names.
  6. Be prepared to side with the teacher. Your natural instinct is to protect your child, so this is difficult for many parents.  It may be necessary to take 24 hours to think about information and decide how to respond to the situation.  Your child needs to know you support them, but you must also respect the teacher.  It is your responsibility to help mold your child into a successful member of society who treats others with respect.  This is a skill that will be used in college, jobs, and future relationships.
  7. Set clear expectations. Sit down with your child and write clear consequences for their actions.  For example:  Student is told he will lose cell phone for 24 hours if he has missing homework.
  8. Follow through. It is very important to always follow through with consequences.  There is no negotiation.  If you don’t follow through with consequences every single time, then behavior will continue to escalate.

It may not be the easiest thing to do as a parent, but it’s worth it. Holding kids accountable for their actions will help mold them into successful, responsible adults.