Teaching Independence

DSC_0012I have been reading a lot of blog articles about cherishing time with your children. Reminders that while the days may seem long, the years will feel short when you look back and you will want to have enjoyed them to the fullest.

I completely agree. Already I look at my children’s baby books and ask myself if I remember that little 2 year old who used to speak to me with a cute lisp or remember the fun of spoon feeding that child their first taste of baby food. Now, our days are filled with bike rides and playdates and talks about school and those little babies seem a distant memory.

And yet, it can be dangerous to become overly sentimental about those days. My child had an adorable inability to pronounce certain letters, but my role was to still encourage him to learn the correct pronunciation of those words so he could head off to school and be easily understood by others. I loved slipping spoonfuls of food into my child’s eager mouth, but I, of course, can’t continue to spoon feed her all of her days.

So, while it is wonderful to cherish each moment and treasure the opportunities we have to be a part of our children’s lives, we need to consistently watch for oportunities to teach independence and affirm their desires to learn to do things by themselves.

So how does this happen?  Some things happen naturally, such as kids wanting to feed themselves, but other things feel like they require the parent to intentionally step back and allow kids to learn they can do it themselves. This can slow us down in the day-to-day and cause frustration when kids ask why you won’t help, but it is worth it in the end.

Simple examples involve getting dressed, putting on shoes, making the bed etc.  Having helped my children with these simple actions for so long, I have learned that I need to be intentionally unavailable during that time.  I need to use language such as, “Mom is going to clean up the breakfast dishes, you need to get dressed while I am doing that.  As they get more proficient I am able to add more items to the list, such as making the bed and brushing teeth and hair.

Other independence moments are involve me simply allowing the kids to do what they want to do.  Last night, my daughter and a friend baked brownies; reading the recipe and mixing the ingredients on their own (with a little oven help).  While I love baking and would enjoy being an active part of that project, it was important for me to step back and let them do the reading, measuring and pouring.

From getting dressed and making their own food, they will gain the independence they need to take on bigger tasks in the future.  Small successes will lead to greater accomplishments.

Remember, your children will never outgrow you. The ways that you help and care for them will change, but it is exciting to watch them take on tasks by themselves and see what they can accomplish.

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