7 truths about growing independent kids

7 truths about growing independent kids

Many reader questions I receive focus on getting kids to do more for themselves or more around the house. These are both activities that help kids grow their independence and are something I strongly encourage and work on with our kids. I have written specific answers to questions in these posts:

Today I wanted to share some more of the philosophical elements of growing independent kids.

You will make decisions they will not like

When you are trying to get kids to do things they are able to do for themselves they will not always like it. It is much easier if mum or dad makes lunch, cleans up the bedroom or drives them to school. The more uncomfortable the task makes them feel or the more work the task requires of them, the more they will let you know they don’t like it.

Consistency is key here, so while it may seem easier just to do it so it is done with less fuss and whining, this is not a helpful long term strategy. As parents, we need to sit through the discomfort of them not liking us in the moment, knowing that what we are asking them to do is in their best interests.

You may be parenting differently from those around you

Or at least your kids will tell you that. They might tell you they are “the only person they know that has to make their own lunch” or “the only person they know that has to get themselves to their weekend sport” or they might actually be the only person they know that does this but if it was important for you to work on this area with your child, then you need to stick with it even if you are parenting differently to those around you. Parenting isn’t a one size fits all gig – you know your child, you know what you want for them and you know what is in their best interests. As hard as it may be to do so, focus on what you are doing and allow others to parent how they want to.

You will need to invest time in teaching them skills

It would be easier if creating independent kids meant you simply let them fend for themselves but this is not the case. Creating independent kids is a long-term play and it requires continuous investment along the way. You need to teach them how to stack the dishwasher properly, use the washing machine, cook a meal, navigate public transport, and a huge range of other activities.

Teaching these activities to kids takes time, patience and often many repeat lessons. It needs to be done calmly and in a scenario that is not seen as a punishment. Take heart that the time you invest now will be repaid to you in spades later on down the track.

You will have to remind them about things

Imagine a world where once you set out the household task list where the kids just set about and do their tasks each day as required – that would be fabulous! It is, however, as far as I am aware impossible. Our kids are pretty great at doing their tasks but I definitely have to remind that at times and keep them accountable for pulling their weight.

Once again consistency is key. If you make sure they do them for the first week then fall off, come back to it in a few months and say we are doing this again, they will do what worked last time. They will start off well, then drift off when they think you are not paying attention. You don’t need to nag them every day about it, simply state that the task needs to be done and give them a deadline for when it needs to be done and be consistent about making sure they are completed.

You will be increasing their self-confidence

Having kids do more for themselves and contribute to the household tasks is a benefit to parents as it decreases our workload but the kids also receive a huge benefit from learning new skills and becoming increasingly independent in looking after themselves.

Self-confidence originates from a perception of competence — or, to put it more simply, children develop confidence not because family and friends praise them, but because of their own accomplishments.

Child Mind Institute

While they may not have wanted to cook a meal for the family, they will receive a sense of accomplishment from doing so. They will have tried something new and learned a great deal along the way.

Kids who have higher levels of self-confidence are more likely to

  • try new things and try again when things don’t go as planned
  • do things that they might not enjoy or normally be good at
  • face challenges rather than avoid them. {source}

You will be giving them needed life skills

We all know someone who left home and was unable to cook, clean or do their own laundry. Eventually, your child will leave home and they need to be able to look after themselves. Creating independent kids through letting them do more for themselves and giving them responsibilities at home is giving kids the gift of essential life skills.

You will be freeing up time over the long term

With our five kids now aged from 12 – 22, I can categorically state that all the time I put into helping kids set routines, do personal tasks for themselves and teach them household tasks frees you up much more time over the long term. I say this to highlight that at times when you are completely frustrated by the process (as I was many times!) there is light at the end of the tunnel and it will be worth all the effort that you have put in!

What other truth would you add about growing independent kids?

If you are not sure where to start with increasing your kids’ independence I can recommend checking out letgrow.org. They have a great free download at the moment called “Free Let Grow Independence Kit Gives Kids a Gazillion Things to Start Doing On Their Own!“. You need to sign up for an account but it is free to download after that. This would be perfect if you have kids in the upper years of primary school.