This post is brought to you by Wovii.
One of my favourite sayings is “the problem with teaching your kids to be independent is that they become independent long before you are ready”. We want our kids to grow up to be the leaders and change makers of the future, but for now we just want them to listen and do as we say right?
But teaching our kids independence from an early age is vital for their success as they enter school, careers and life in general. According to Dr Amanda Mullin, a Clinical Psychologist at Mindworx Psychology, “the research suggests that allowing our children independence can help teach them about choices and promote the development of an internal locus of control. An internal locus of control – a belief that we can problem solve situations – is a factor in resilience building, and a critical ingredient for good mental health.
Children with an external locus of control tend to believe that luck, chance, fate or external forces will determine their life. Fostering independence encourages children to learn that they can recover from a mistake, to learn that they can make alternative choices, and to learn that choices are always available. For example, we can’t control the rain, but we can control whether we choose to use a raincoat or umbrella, or choose to be cold and wet, and a victim of the rain. If it’s safe, then instead of solving a problem (as an external force), parents can foster resilience, independence and self-esteem by allowing their child the time and space to solve their own problem.”
Here are a few ways you can develop independence in your kids.
Hand them the spoon
One of the earliest ways we can teach our kids independence is when they start eating. Once they’ve got the hang of the new textures and flavours they are experiencing, start letting them handle the spoon and use their hands. Not only is this great for sensory development but it teaches them to start eating independently. Word of warning: pop a splat mat or piece of plastic under the high chair to make cleaning up the inevitable spills much easier. I also just left my daughter in her nappy if she was eating something particularly messy (hello spaghetti bolognaise) so that I didn’t have to worry about getting stains out of clothes and could pop her straight in the bath after her meal!
For older kids, a knife like a KiddiCutter (for ages 3+) will start to give them a sense of more independence as they can start to cut their own food safely. Our Little Miss has her own cupboard with all her plastic plates and cups in it. Each night at dinner I ask her to bring me a plate for her dinner. Sometimes she brings me a snack cup instead but we usually get there!
Always look for opportunities
Opportunities for independence can come up everyday. From letting them carry their own backpack into daycare or putting the pillows on the bed when you have made it, there really are opportunities everywhere that you can tailor to your kids age and ability. Sure it might take longer to get things done but the long term benefit is so worth it.
Products like wovii are also perfect for teaching kids independence. Jen, the owner and creator of wovii, created her lightweight microfiber towels for this exact reason, so that her independent daughter who wanted to do everything herself, could take on one extra task of drying herself after bath time. We’ve been using them in our house at bath time and Little Miss is slowly getting the hang of it. It’s so adorable to watch the joy in her face at such a small task.
Give them choices
Giving your kids choices also gives them a sense of control and security. Think about the many decisions they will have to independently make in their life: To get in the car with the inexperienced driver or to call you for a lift? To trust a stranger or seek help from a trusted source? To go to University or start a trade?
The earlier we can equip our kids with good decision making skills, the better. But when we are talking toddlers and young children, those choices need to be limited. I will often give Little Miss a choice of two or three outfits to wear for the day. She likes the sense of independence and control it gives her and I’m not left waiting for an hour while she rifles through every drawer looking for a particular tutu. Other choices like which park you will visit or helping with choosing recipes when meal planning are other ways to teach independence.
You know that feeling when you spot your child playing independently? That warm fuzzy feeling of pure joy at this wonderful human being you have created? And then you make eye contact. Game over. Independent moment crashed. I have been there way more times than I care to remember!
But if we reward those independent moments, they are more likely to keep happening. Whether it is in the moment or some positive reinforcement when they have finished playing, rewarding that independent behaviour will seek to reinforce it.
As parents, seeing our kids grow up and develop their own independence is bittersweet. Of course we want our children to be successful adults but at the same time, saying goodbye to our babies as they grow bigger and less reliant on us, is such a challenging thing.
Wovii towels are available in three sizes, Jumbo ($39.95), Standard ($32.95) and Washer ($9.95) in 8 colours. They soak up water four times faster than an average cotton towel and dry way faster too! They are lightweight, so not only perfect for kids to dry themselves but also ideal for the beach and creating space in your linen closet. You can find out more about Wovii and purchase your own at the wovii website.
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