One thing that children have in common on their journey to adulthood is the constant strive to become independent. Starting from infants when they are grabbing the spoon at feeding time, through the “I want to do it,” into those teenage years where they know what is best. It can become quite a power struggle between parent and child. Especially when there are time restraints, and they are taking thirty minutes or more getting dressed. Power struggles led to stress which makes feelings run high and deep. So, take a breath and consider that children gaining independence eventually help relieve daily pressures and help your child be a strong adult. There are many things you can do encourage independence and self-help skills.
Setting routines and expectations or those times helps children to e prepared and to transition their thinking to what they need to be doing. In the morning tell them it is time to get ready for school and tell them how much time they must be ready. Give them a countdown such as ten more minutes, then five more minutes. Be sure they are aware of the tasks that required to be ready such as put your shoes on, have your backpack ready. Older children can prepare their own sack lunch, prepare pets for the time you will be away or even help with a younger sibling.
Let your child make choices. Children should be able to get dressed themselves even at age three! Let them pick out their own clothes and just give them a time frame to be finished. Some children will pick out the most outrageous and miss matching outfits, but it is a terrific way to give them a chance to express themselves. Different colored socks, wearing stripes and polka dots together means a lot when they can say “I did it myself.” They can also choice and prepare their own snacks. Putting cheese and crackers on a plate, poring ranch or their carrot sticks can be a simple and easy start.
Giving your children chores and letting them help in daily housekeeping can be great way of establishing responsibility and independence. Children can pick up and organize their own room, take out the trash, set the table or take care of a pet. When children help, they gain confidence and knowledge that they are capable of doing things that are important. Giving them the opportunity to choose that their cars can go in a red bucket while dress up can go in blue basket gives them a chance to think and make decisions for themselves. When they can decide they are more willing to complete a chore.
One of the best ways to encourage independence is or children to strengthen their critical thinking skills through problem solving. When a child loose a toy under the couch the first thing they do is ask for help. Instead of reaching under the couch to get it for them walk them through scenarios that enables them to get it themselves. “Have you tried to extend your reach?” “Try using a broom or a clothes hanger.” When they spill their drink on the table try letting them clean it up before you jump into the rescue. The mess may get bigger at first but given the opportunity they will figure it out for themselves.
In the beginning stepping aside to give children more choices and opportunities to do thins themselves may feel frustrating but eventually as they accomplish the simple tasks, they will gain skills that will allow them to complete more complex actions. Life becomes so much simpler when power struggles evaporate and growing up becomes more like teamwork and family.
Lead Pre-Kindergarten Teacher