Promoting independence

A key task of parenting is raising independent, self-motivated children who are able to appropriately use the support of parents and friends as they grow. You can help your child develop a healthy sense of independence. Independence is an important aspect of your child’s development. From the age of two, children strive for more independence. From this age, you should encourage your child to make simple choices about their lives.

The degree of independence you can expect form you child must appropriate to their age and abilities and varies with each different situation. Children may be more independent in some situations than others.

It can be a common pitfall for busy parents to do things for children that children are capable of doing themselves. Though it may actually take more time initially for parents to support children to do age-appropriate tasks for themselves, your child's self confidence and independence will grow as a result.

Ways to encourage appropriate independence

Allow your child to make simple choices from a range of options you are prepared to accept. For example, allow your children to have a say in which clothes they will be wearing each day, even if this is limited to basic colour selection. Let children make mistakes and support them to learn from them.

Let children participate in household chores, such as vacuuming, dusting and making beds.

Develop a responsibility chart so your children can keep track of the household chores they have completed.

Let children know you are interested in their thoughts and ideas. Ask their opinions on things that are to do with them.

Respect your child's decisions wherever possible.

Help children to understand the impact of their choices.

Teach children problem solving skills – encourage them to think about what they could do to fix the problem rather than telling them what to do.

Provide positive support for your child in situations that may be challenging.

Encourage and praise children’s attempts to do things for themselves no matter what the outcome.

Provide age-appropriate toys so that children can learn to play by themselves for short periods of time.

Help children take responsibility for packing up their toys.

Teach older children to use a watch and incorporate time in some directions you give. For example "You can go next door to play, but I want you to be home by 4:30."

Help children to set achievable goals and work toward achieving those goals.