3 Helpful Ways to Encourage Independence in your Children

2015 October 07
by Kerrie Flanagan

From the time children become mobile, they are on a quest for independence. It is our job as parents to nurture that need while providing them a safe and encouraging environment. By doing this, our children will grow up to be confident, independent adults.

Giving babies a way to communicate with us, lessens their frustration and is an early step in them becoming an active participant in the world around them. For the past 20 years, baby sign language has given parents a tool to use with their little ones to teach them basic communication skills even before the baby can talk.  

Laura Berg, founder of My Smart Hands, believes signing encourages a more independent thought process.

On the blog, Off Beat Home, parent Katey Sleeveless shared how grateful she is for baby sign language. It helped her and her 18-month-old Lio communicate better and it built his self-esteem. “His signing vocabulary not only helps connect him to the world, but allows him to continue to assert his independence in super healthy, tantrum-less ways. Learning how to communicate with us in a relatively uncomplicated way has made him so happy.” 

Giving young children choices is wonderful way to help them on the road to independence and it cuts down on tantrums too (especially in two-year-olds). Adina Soclof, a certified Speech pathologist and founder and owner of ParentingSimply.com, says that giving children choices teaches them how to make decisions and builds their self-esteem. It makes them feel more powerful and in control of their lives. 

The key to making this successful for everyone is to provide two choices you can live with. If you throw one in the mix that you don’t like, it’s inevitable that your child will pick that one. Choices as simple as, “Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?” or “Do you want milk or juice to drink?” go a long way in the eyes of children. It shows you value their opinion and it gives them some control over their lives. 


It can be tempting to want to do everything for our children, but by doing so, we rob them of the chance to have a feeling of accomplishment and feel as if they are a contributing member of the family. When my children were young, around the age of 2 ½, we had them be part of clean up after dinner. They were responsible for putting their dishes in the dishwasher. It was a small thing, but since we were all helping they liked being a part of the action.  Since it was something we had them start at such a young age, it eventually became habit and as they grew up, they always took care their dirty dishes without being asked. My daughter who is now 20, lives in an apartment with two roommates. She recently came over for a visit and shared how she didn’t understand why her roommates left their dishes in the sink and they didn’t just put them in the dishwasher. It made me smile.

As children grow, their list of responsibilities will grow based on their age and ability. Having a “chore chart” with a list of tasks like, brush teeth, get dressed, make bed… can be helpful. It gives children a visual reminder of what needs to be done and helps them to keep the tasks more organized. Keep in mind, children are not little adults and they need to be patiently taught about organizing time and the importance of taking care of responsibilities. Pinterest is filled with creative chore charts to use with your youngsters like these:  https://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=chore+chart

With patience, encouragement and by providing them with the right choices and opportunities, you will instill a strong sense of self-confidence and independence in your children.




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