How to Raise an Independent Child
Dr. Brad Schwall on encouraging and grieving the independence of our kids from pre-school to college
The first day of Kindergarten and the first day of college are the same. For the parents, the day represents loss. For the child, the day represents growing independence. The kindergartner holds onto the parent's leg. The parent holds onto the college student's leg. The parent grieves the child's leaving while the child moves into the next phase of independence.
Encouraging independence in your child is your most important job. You are training, teaching, guiding, all with the goal of your child becoming his own person, making his own decisions, and leaving the home. Encouraging independence is an ongoing process that progresses through childhood and adolescence.
- Allow your child to be himself - encourage your child's unique talents and interests. Show your child you know she is competent - let your child show you how to do things. Give your child opportunities for successful independence.
- Listen more than give advice - listen in a way that allows your child to come up with her own solutions. Guiding your child in brainstorming nurtures her confidence in her ability to solve problems on her own.
- Remember that independence is the goal - intervening and rescuing undermines the gradual process of growing into an autonomous, healthy adult.
- Relate in new ways - adjust your interactions as your child matures. Take your child's lead in planning activities.
- Accept your child's independence and avoid forcing your interactions to conform to those of past stages.
You're planting seeds in your child's life in your every interaction. You build confidence in your child by showing your confidence in your child. It's good if your child seems to be separating, questioning, or even rebelling because that means he is struggling for independence. It's a good sign if you're feeling sad about your child growing up because that means she is. By accepting your child is growing more and more independent, you're more likely to stay connected to your child because you're respecting, honoring, and celebrating her evolution into her own person.
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