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Raising an independent child has many advantages for both the child and their parent. Children who are empowered to do necessary tasks on their own gain confidence in the process. For the parent, it can mean they can cook dinner, read a book, or tend to other concerns in the house while their child plays safely by themselves.
It can be tempting to continue to do things for your children, such as feeding, cleaning, or bathing, because it seems you get the task done faster and with less mess. However, allowing them to make a mess and teaching them to clean it up after may make for a less stressful strategy in the long run.
Children who learn how to do things by themselves early on are more confident and less anxious. They grow up to be better decision-makers, more resilient, and more willing to try new things.
Here are five ways that you can encourage your child to be more independent in your everyday lives, and why it essential to do so:
Teach them to self-feed
Self-feeding is one of the first skills that babies can be taught to do on their own as soon as they can sit upright unsupported. Some parents allow their children to practice eating small, safe, and age-appropriate portions of food using their hands from as early as six months. Others wait a little longer for independent feeding when their kids can use utensils.
Either way, the goal is to be able to allow your child to feed themselves at the appropriate times without having to be spoonfed by an adult. Independent eaters make mealtimes easier for the family, so everyone can sit down and enjoy their food together.
Practice independent play
Play is essential for young children. They have short attention spans and may not be able to play independently for long periods. Even so, you can slowly teach a child to learn to play by themselves.
A mum hack for this would be to designate a safe and accident-proof corner with soft flooring in your home that you can supervise from a distance. Leave a few toys with them, and let your child play freely. At first, it may be difficult, but you can leave the area for longer intervals while still keeping them within eyesight. Without your intervention, they can explore their creativity, use their imagination, and practice problem-solving skills.
Teach them to tidy up
Instil in children the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves. Teach them to bring their empty plate and cup to the sink after dinner. Ask them to tidy up their toys at the end of the day before they go to bed. Show them how to wipe up the spilled milk.
Cleaning up teaches them discipline, encourages them to respect their belongings, and shows them how they ought to behave, even when they are not at home.
Bathe and brush on their own
Once they are old enough, teach your kids to wash up and get ready for bed by themselves. Bathing may need your supervision, but they can be encouraged to soap on their bodies, wash their hair, and brush their teeth.
Another mum hack is to set specific times of the day for these hygiene activities and post the schedule where they can refer to it. Even if they can’t read yet, have a picture of the bath on the wall and give them a sticker after each time they finish washing up on their own. The reward system reinforces their positive behaviour and gives them something to look forward to.
Socialise with other children
While they seem like exclusive ideas, socialising and being independent are essential skills that build a child’s confidence. A child who learns to play with other children and is comfortable being around them will not need to cling to their parents.
Playing and making friends with other children teaches them about the world outside of their immediate family. Socialising also allows them to practise their verbal communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution skills, which will be valuable as they grow older.
Allow these tips to guide you, but keep in mind that all children grow and develop at their own pace. Children come into the world quite helpless and need all the love, care, and attention that parents can give them. What is important to remember is to observe your child, follow their pace, and give them age-appropriate experiences and responsibilities. Before you know it, they will be much too independent for your liking.
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