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Friday, June 30, 2017

How to Develop Independence in Children By Trisha Roberts

Most parents would say that they want their children to grow up and be “independent”.  But what exactly does that look like and how do we develop that? Independence is learning to do things for one’s self and becoming less dependent on others.

When children leave home to live on their own after high school or college, they should have the life skills necessary to be independent.  They should be able to clean their room and home, launder their clothes, organize their belongings, change sheets on a bed, plan healthy meals, grocery shop, cook/bake, hang pictures securely on a wall, manage a savings and checking account, perform basic mechanics on their car (change a tire, fill the wiper fluid, and maybe change the oil), recycle, formulate a budget, and pay bills in a timely fashion, to name a few.

Learning to change a tire is an important life skill

Teach kids how to balance the checkbook

These skills are learned--they do not simply appear or emerge.  An infant is totally dependent on its parents and care providers for the
provision of food, positional changes, bathing, diapering, etc.  As a toddler grows and a child matures they can take on more responsibility for their own care and help with the needs of the family unit, thus learning the skills they will need to live independently. Chores are an essential part of life as we age; let’s teach children to enjoy work and the sense of accomplishment a job well done brings to a person.  Life is much more pleasant when we learn to find satisfaction in the simple, day-to-day tasks.

Many things are learned by trial and error, but parents can facilitate the development of independence by introducing age-appropriate chores as their children grow and mature.  Numerous skills are initially taught by observation with a gradual assumption of responsibility for the entire task.

Example 1:  Allowing a young child to watch as you wash, dry, and fold clothes is a start toward laundry competence.  Encouraging children to separate the dark clothes from the lighter colored clothes teaches colors, sorting, and counting and is also one of the necessary skills for washing.  Letting kids put clothes in or take them out of the dryer practices the concept of in and out and is good physical exercise (squat-to-stand--strengthening and bending—flexibility).  Teaching children to fold shirts, match socks, and put clothing in closets and drawers can be good educational opportunities as well as the beginning of life skills needed for self-sufficient living.

Folding Clothes is a good beginning chore

Example 2:   Even very young children are fascinated by the process of washing dishes. Let them stand on a chair (make sure that they have the balance to do so!  Or have a look at a great Kitchen Helper that allows kids to work alongside adults in the kitchen safely!) Let them use the faucet hose to rinse off dishes.  Let them place the silverware in the dishwasher basket.  They can learn great skills by stacking and counting small plates.

Children by age five should have specific chores that are their day responsibility.  As they grow, the number of chores or complexity of the chores may increase.  Some chores that could be assumed by children include:

  • Make their own bed
  • Put folded clothes away
  • Feed or water Pets
  • Put toys on shelves or in bins (see our article, “Organize the Playroom”)
  • Set the table
  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Dust the house
  • Empty the trash baskets in each room
Watering and feeding pets are good early chores
Making a bed is an early life skill

Other life skills, such as balancing a checkbook, changing a tire, or formulating a weekly meal plan, are activities that should be taught as a teenager. Make a list of the skills you want your teenager to master and then schedule times to work on those activities.

Make sure that your children are as prepared for life on their own as you can.  Have high expectations—have the confidence in your kids that they can do a successful job.  Encourage them and gently guide and correct errors as needed.  Independence is a valuable virtue—make a conscious effort to instill it in your children!

Blog Administrator:  Trisha Roberts

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  1. We love the idea of incorporating life skills into every day life and play!