How to Raise Independent Children

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raising independent children

Do you want to know what I want, as a mother, for my children?

For them not to turn out to be a-holes. Seriously.

I want them to know that their God is big and loves them unconditionally. I want them to know that their dad and I are always in their corner. I want them to be well adjusted. I want them to be kind and empathetic because honestly, we are all just trying to do our best and kindness is free.

I want them to be kind to themselves. I want them to realize that perfection isn’t something to aspire to because nothing and no one is perfect. Mistakes are simply lessons learned.

It’s not a failure unless you quit.

No dream is too small or inconsequential. Everyone is trying to live their truth.
They don’t ever need to apologize for liking what they like or being who they are. God made them perfect, just as they are.

I want them to be confident in who they are and what they can do.

And you know what I realized somewhere along this journey as their momma?

Independence fosters self-confidence.

So the question is, how do I foster independence in my girls?

how to raise independent children

Here’s How I’m Fostering Independence in My Kids.

Routine for their day.

If my girls know what is expected and what comes next, then comes an opportunity for them to do it on their own without prompting or assistance from me.

Brushing their teeth, getting dressed, making their bed, getting their backpacks ready for school…

As they were moving from that toddler stage into a little girl, I remember how proud they were at mastering each new skill unassisted.

My three-year-old high fives me after brushing her teeth and getting her pajamas on every night—just like her older sisters.

It makes her feel like a big girl and in her mind, just as capable as my ten-year-old. After mastering these two skills, she’s moving onto other things she sees them doing for themselves. Making sandwiches and getting herself a cup of water…

You see the trend here?

Letting Them Make Some Decisions for Themselves.

If you can teach your kids to make decisions about the small things, don’t you think that will translate over into bigger, more important things?

The decision-making process is the same for any problem.

Show them how to make choices and then give them opportunities to stretch their legs and practice those skills in good ways. What to wear to school, what to have for snack, what activity to do, etc.

A word of caution. It is possible to take this too far in one direction where you are catering to your child’s every whim. That is not what I am talking about here. You are the parent and they are the child. I’ve seen a lot of this dynamic and it’s not a good situation for anyone.

It’s OK to Let Them Struggle a Bit.

You aren’t doing anyone any favors by constantly swooping and fixing everything for them. They get into an argument at school with a kid in their class. They aren’t the star swimmer on their swim team.

They need to learn how to overcome those kinds of situations. If you don’t let them when its small things, how can you expect them to know what to do when they are all grown up and on their own?

They need to know how to talk through conflicts. What their options are in those situations.

They need to know that they aren’t always going to be the best at everything. They need to understand that if they want to improve that it’s going to take effort and consistency.

What do you appreciate more, the thing that came easy or the thing you struggled to get?

Self-care and Cleaning Up After Themselves.

It’s honestly embarrassing the number of people who my freshman year of college had no idea how to wash a load of clothes. I’ve been washing my own clothes since I was 10.

I met a boy once who didn’t even know how to open a pop top on a can. Y’all come on now! We can do better than this. Don’t let this be your child. You are doing yourself and them a real disservice.

First, you won’t always be around to doing everything for them, so they really need to learn these key life skills. Second, do you really want to carry on the next 18 years doing everything for every single member of your household? Yeah, no!

Are your kids going to knock it out of the park in their pursuit of independence? No. Are they going to do it exactly how you would have done it? Most likely not. Are they going to be 100% successful in every attempt? Nope.

Is this going to be an exercise in patience for you? That would be a resounding yes. But multiple failures, messes, spills, and all. They are never going to learn unless you give them a chance. And remember, you praise the effort and not the outcome. What are the chances they’ll want to do something again if all you care about is whether they successfully completed each task??

Have you ever heard the expression, you’ve gotta crack a few eggs to bake a cake? Well, Betty Crocker?? You’re up!

You Are Not the Dancing Monkey.

It is not your job to entertain your kids every second of every day. I remember when I was little staying outside all day, riding my bike, playing with the neighbor kids, coming up with games to play, climbing trees.

Fostering imagination and creativity is such an important part of any childhood. Making a fort out of pillows and sheets. Making their own board games from leftover cardboard and odds and ends.

They need a chance to do some outside of the box thinking. To let their imagination run wild.

When my girls come to me complaining that they are bored. I always tell them the same thing, boredom is just a lack of imagination and that they should get to it! Do they always love this response? Nope. Would it be easier to just let them watch TV or play on their tablet? Sure. But, I try really hard not to let that be our default.

I want to point out, I am in no way shaming screen time. No judgments for doing what you have to do to give yourself a 15-minute brain break or 30 minutes to cook dinner without them destroying the living room.

I’m just saying, for me, I try not to let TV or the iPad be their go-to whenever they are home.

Give Them Bumpers.

Does independence mean letting them run crazy and follow any wild hair? Heck no! It means letting them try in a way that’s safe.

There’s a reason there are guardrails along the side of the road, right?! You can keep your car on the road 99% of the time, but it’s that 1% that has the potential to be a devastating (possibly life-altering) situation.

They want to learn to cook. Do you forbid it, because they could get hurt? Hopefully not, because you get to teach them how to do it safely and you’re going to be right beside them, yeah?

Eventually, with time and experience, they’ll be able to rock it on their own. And repeated successes will build confidence in their ability.

Show Them that You Trust and Believe in Them.

Who knows your child better than you? You know their heart, you know all the quirks, you know what motivates them, you know what scares them, you know them.

How do you think that translates for them?

Trust. They trust you. You have consistently loved them, cared for them, comforted them. For as long as they can remember. Yes, sometimes you bring the rain, but for the overwhelming majority of their life, you are the love and the light in their life.

With days, weeks, and months of that in your corner, what sort of weight does your word carry with them? You’re a heavy hitter, right? By word and deed, you’ve been showing them you are in their corner.

Now picture being on the other side of that. What does that person’s confidence in you, do for your confidence? You believe in yourself because they do, right? Does that mean there are no doubts? No, but probably (hopefully!) not enough to stop you.

From small things like making themselves something to eat, to being responsible enough to operate a car or even head off on their own.

I know with 100% certainty that I can call my parents at any time from anywhere and they will drop everything and come running if I need them.

That gave me (and still does) the confidence to try and that is and continues to be a complete gift.

One that I hope I’m able to pass on to my own kids. Unconditional love and support.

Am I a Parenting Expert??

Ha! I really, really wish, but that would be a resounding no! 

Am I killing it every day—also a no. As a matter of fact, I spend a good part of my time constantly second guessing myself, but I’m confident when I say, no one will love my kids more than I will and that’s gotta count for something.

Let’s be honest, parenting is a bit like the bar scene, everyone’s yelling, the floor is sticky, it’s a bit chaotic and someone is probably going to puke somewhere they shouldn’t. But we laugh and keep coming back, right?!

How about you? Do you have any killer parenting tips? When people say it takes a village, they ain’t lying. I’ve love to hear from you. Please comment below!

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