BY SARAH LYONS

As a mom of kids ranging from 2 - 12, I realize how quickly time flies. I love watching my kids grow, trying new things and discovering their passions.
  It can be hard to let them struggle through — or even fail at — experiences outside of their comfort zones. However, those experiences develop confidence and independence which is valuable in life at all ages.
I want to raise self-sufficient adults, and that means I need to start training them now.
Here are some ideas to help kids naturally develop the independence needed to be confident and responsible adults.

The Preschool Years

— CREATE A HELPER —

Toddlers and preschoolers love to follow parents around the house, so why not have them help with the chores? They can help put clothes in the dryer, match socks, sweep the floor or assist in any other task. They may not be able to do chores independently or have household responsibilities yet, but taking the extra time to show them now lays the groundwork for the future. 

— GIVE OPPORTUNITIES —

During the preschool years, kids typically show an interest in trying self-care tasks themselves. It may be easier (and faster) to tie your child’s shoes, zip up his coat, make his lunch and buckle his seatbelt, but allowing him to try these things on his own helps him become more independent. Consider starting the preparation for your day 15 minutes earlier to allow time for him to help. If frustration arises, remain calm and pause. Instead of just completing the task for him, take time to teach him how to do it again so he won’t get discouraged.

 — PROBLEM SOLVE —

Problem-solving skills begin to develop at a young age. Toddlers and preschoolers will often get frustrated when things don’t go their way — which may result in a temper tantrum. While this is age appropriate, help your child develop problem-solving skills by calmly suggesting solutions to what is upsetting him. Have him come up with ideas to solve the problem and when possible help him work through it on his own.

Bonus tip

Give your child choices whenever possible to help him develop independence and to give him a sense of control.

 

The Elementary School Years

— CREATE A HELPER —

For elementary age kids, advance what was done in the preschool years. I will assign my children a chore like washing windows, vacuuming or putting away dishes. Since they have helped me with these tasks for years, they no longer need my assistance. If they’re reluctant to do chores, I make a list of things that need to be done and have them choose a few things they would like to do. When they’re done they will have free time for electronics, outside play or something they have been looking forward to. Chores teach kids to be independent and responsible.

— GIVE OPPORTUNITIES —

Give your child more opportunities to be independent as he matures. This may look different depending on your particular child, but some ideas may be ordering and paying for his food at a restaurant, riding his bike home from school, packing his own lunch or trying a new extracurricular activity. Each opportunity — even a challenging one — helps him become self-sufficient and develop more independence.

 — PROBLEM SOLVE —

Elementary school kids will begin to face bigger problems that may include challenging friendships, struggles with schoolwork or even bullying. Foster good communication with your child and help him come up with solutions he’s comfortable with. Cheer him on when he’s able to work through obstacles.

 Bonus tip

Do your best not to criticize your child’s efforts but instead praise him for trying to do his best.

 

The Teenage Years

— CREATE A HELPER —

’Tweens and teens should be given even more household responsibilities as they are nearing adulthood. Take note of what skills it takes to run a household and begin to teach them these tasks. Cooking, yard work, babysitting, laundry, car care and even a part-time job fall into this category. The more responsibilities your child is comfortable with while in your home will make the transition to living on his own smoother.

— GIVE OPPORTUNITIES —

There’s a fine line between giving your child independence and keeping him safe in the teen years. As he starts to drive, spends more time with friends and works outside the home, you have less control over his choices. Continue working on open communication and trust with him so that as he ventures into the world, you both feel comfortable with the change.

 — PROBLEM SOLVE —

One of the hardest thing a kid has to experience is the consequences for making a poor choice. Your first reaction may be to step in and “save” your child, but, in the long run, this does not teach him anything. For example, if he left his homework at home he will not receive credit for the work. The easy thing to do would be to run the assignment to the school, but chances are he will forget again and most likely, on a larger assignment. He’s old enough to manage responsibilities and he must also learn these lessons. Sit down with your child and help him come up with solutions to problems and encourage him to do this without you. 

Bonus tip

Set specific household rules so your child can be independent but not beyond your comfort zone as a parent.

Sarah Lyons is a mom of six and a freelance writer. She has contributed to more than 120 parenting publications.