Empower Your Children to be Independent

Empower Your Children to be Independent

An early start will make their move toward autonomy smoother

Kids are living at home longer. It’s happening, so get used to it. But this extra time shouldn't lull parents into a sense of security that their kids will be independent when they finally do go out on their own. Parents need to instill the pillars of independence early on to make sure they are ready to live on their own whenever that time comes.

The good news is that raising independent children provides plentiful benefits, both for parents and, more importantly, for children themselves. Those independent habits will also benefit young adults who still live with their parents. But getting there requires some work for parents and the sooner they start, the sooner they will see positive results.

Here are 5 ways to get your children on the track to independence:

Involve them in choices
Starting your children on the road to independence begins with involving them in everyday errands and responsibilities to prep them for what awaits when they will be taking on those activities on their own. It’s good for them, but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily want to do it. When bringing up tasks or chores with your kids, don’t ask them if they want to help or not. Rather, pose questions or choices about how they want to help. Tasks like helping with dinner can be posed as a choice between setting or clearing the table, or drying or putting away washed dishes.

Over-functioning parents lead to under-functioning kids
It's crucial for parents to distinguish between helping and over-functioning. While helping involves assisting a child with tasks they genuinely cannot manage alone, over-functioning is doing things for their children that they are perfectly capable of handling themselves. The good news is parents have the power to change this dynamic. By stepping back and encouraging their children to take responsibility for their actions and lives, parents can foster a sense of independence crucial for adulthood. 

Let your children make mistakes before correcting them or provide guidance from the outset but let them handle actions themselves. This will embolden their sense of independence and give them agency to take on tasks and other grown-up situations. “When they make a mistake, let them know it's OK and help them brainstorm how they might do better next time. Come up with strategies for rectifying the issue, as needed, as well. Mistakes should be welcomed as learning opportunities,” explains an article in Parent.com.

Transitioning from manager to consultant
Parenting evolves as children grow, from a hands-on managerial role to that of a supportive consultant. While managing a young child's daily activities is necessary, as they mature, parents should adopt a more consultative approach. Respecting boundaries while providing autonomy is key. Parents should outline clear expectations and limits, while granting their children the freedom to make their own choices. By adopting this consultant mindset, parents allow their children to navigate what it means to be an adult while still offering a safety net of guidance and support.

Build routines in young children 
Especially in young children, starting routines helps them get used to doing things themselves. An article in Child Mind Institute, advises teaching preschoolers to do simple things like learning what to do when they get home so that they progress to more complicated and challenging situations. “Jacket off, then shoes, hang up backpack, wash hands. Let kids start to do parts of the routine by themselves, like unzipping their coat. Eventually, they’ll be able to do the whole routine alone.”

Set them up for success
Part of helping children be independent and develop accompanying characteristics is making sure parents do their part to put them in a position to succeed. It’s well and good to want them to help set the table as part of their chores, but if they can’t reach the dishes or napkins, we will likely build more frustration and anxiety in them than anything else.  The Parents.com article reminds parents to think about the ways parents can increase the chances of their children being able to do things on their own. “Add a hook at eye level for them to hang their backpack after school. Keep a step stool near the kitchen to get their snack from the fridge or pantry without help,” the article explains. When parents set the stage for their children to be independent, it is more likely they will take the opportunity. 

Kids may be staying at home longer, but that should create complacency in parents. The earlier parents instill the foundations of independence, the more likely their children will be equipped for the eventual transition to autonomy. By fostering self-sufficiency, parents cultivate resilient, capable individuals prepared for the challenges of adulthood.