If you have a toddler, you’ve likely heard this phrase many times before: “Mommy, I do it.” They are four simple words that can be the start of a thrilling moment of development or the prelude to a power struggle. Throughout their lives, our kids want and need our support, but they also need to learn the skills to do things independently. One of the biggest challenges for a parent is knowing when to let go, step back, and let your child figure it out for herself. We instinctively want to step in and make it easier, but sometimes, we need to stand down and let our children overcome obstacles on their own.
Cultivating independence is a learning experience for both parents and kids. But, from infancy onward, there are many little steps that we can take to give our children room to grow and develop, while at the same time nurturing their sense of empowerment and confidence.
Here are 3 simple ideas to set them on their own paths:
1. Allow your child to experience frustration and even to fail. We tend to live in a praise-heavy culture where rewards have become nearly meaningless. This over-praising and efforts to “guarantee” success compromise our children’s capacity for achievement and can even create in them a sense of entitlement. Children need to try – and to fail. By allowing children the experience of frustration, we give them the opportunity to problem solve. We give them the chance to dig deeper, try harder. We also allow them to fail and to realize that failure doesn’t define them, nor does it mean complete destruction. It is very difficult for us, as parents, to watch our children struggle and fail, but we need to remind ourselves of the power and sense of accomplishment your child will feel when the task has been conquered or achieved.
2. Give your child free time. Make room for play and imagination. Do you hear “I’m bored” all too often? Are your kids used to a hectic schedule of school, sports, activities, and playdates? Free time gives children a chance to explore and to learn independent play. Kids who can choose how to spend their time will learn to venture into new territories, explore their imagination, and develop their creativity. Passive entertainment is not going to build their independence. Get them outside to explore the world, let them pick a book to get lost in, or provide them with creative outlets where they can put their independent thoughts into action.
3. Honor your children. Honoring our own parents is not about blindly accepting all of their choices or beliefs, but about treating them with respect. The same goes for our children. Honor their voices and opinions. Get on their level when you speak with them and take their thoughts and ideas to heart. Validate their feelings and allow them to express their emotions openly and to work through them, even when they are not pleasant. Children who are validated will learn self-confidence and will be much better equipped to manage a wide range of emotions and moods throughout life, without seeking outside influences for confirmation.
Giving your children room to grow and develop a sense of personal independence is one of the greatest things we can give our children.
How do you nurture your child’s independence?
Learn more about finding balance and holistic parenting and connect with like-minded parents at the 9th Annual Natural Living Conference on October 13th in Chicago. You can also join in events online and off-line all month long as part of Holistic Moms Network’s celebration of Holistic Living Month. Join us!