Have you ever done something for your kids when you know that they can or should do it for themselves? Some examples include, tying their shoes for them, zipping or buttoning their coat, cutting their food, making their bed, making their lunch, and doing their laundry. Every parent is guilty of doing this every once in awhile, but this can actually be detrimental to your child’s development and their ability to gain skills needed for other tasks.
It may be so much easier for you to do it for them, take a lot less time, or be the easiest way to avoid a meltdown from your child, but this only prolongs them from learning valuable skills. Additionally, you are using your time when you could spend it doing other activities. In order to learn these skills, your children need to be granted the opportunity to problem-solve through a task and succeed. By doing so, this process may transfer to learning other skills, make them feel more independent, improve their proficiency with completing new tasks, and make your life as a parent easier as well!
Here are some tips to help your children gain independence:
- Add an extra 10-15 minutes for each activity. This will allow for the increased time needed for your children to complete tasks. If you build in extra time before you have to leave the house in the morning or during the bedtime routine, there should be fewer instances needed to intervene to help your children get ready in order to stay on schedule.
- Leave the room! No parent likes to watch their children struggle to do something. If you simply leave the room it may allow you to suppress the need to help them figure something out on their own. If they really need the help, they will come to you and ask for it.
- Demonstrate the task to them and then allow them to try it. In order to understand how to open a container or lace their shoes, for example, children are going to have to see it done first. You may have to show them how to do it a few times before they are able to accomplish the task.
- Give him or her verbal prompts. Providing step-by-step verbal directions will allow your children to navigate the steps of a task. By allowing them to try the steps out themselves, it helps their body learn the motions needed to complete the task.
- Provide written directions. This will allow you to help your children without having to repeat the directions every time. This way, they know where they can go if they forget the steps of the activity while still being able to practice it themselves.
- Help only when needed. If you sense your child is about to get frustrated after numerous failed attempts to finish the task, then give him or her the help they need. After practicing, he or she will eventually learn how to do it independently but they may still need a little help along the way.
- Give your child the expectation that he or she has to do things for himself or herself. Sometimes children simply do not want to put on their own shoes and socks because it is hard for them, but that is exactly the reason they should do it themselves! If your child knows up front that they are expected to try something before asking for help, there will be less likelihood for a meltdown or tantrum.
It may be difficult to implement these ideas at first, especially if your child is used to being helped each step of the way. However, if you use these strategies consistently, your children will learn how to become more independent and a responsible member of the family!