Fostering Independence in Our Kids

I am sitting down to write this blog looking back to the things I did well – and the errors I made as I raised my own children. Much of this blog will be responding to the errors I made, having the benefit of reflection now that they are grown. I am simply sharing basic principles, application ideas and a couple of traps to avoid!

We were created to be managers of this land that God created. His original intention was for us to work under His ruling but with responsibility for the world He created for us to live in. We are designed to be productive, connected and responsible. This is life-giving to all of us when we do it well.

What does responsibility look like in preschool?
Children flourish when they are given reasonable responsibility in managing their worlds. We are teaching them to be responsible for their property, their time, their actions and their relationships and this responsibility grows over time as they get older and more able.

Being involved in simple household chores gives them pride in their environment and in their ability to be a productive and helpful member of the household. They might complain here and there because they didn’t want to complete the help task at that time, but consistency and knowing their contribution actually makes a positive difference increases this willingness and their feeling of pride.

Managing conflict and offering choices
Offering choices is not allowing kids to be in control. It is giving them reasonable control within the direction you have given them. It’s time to get dressed. Would you like to wear red pants or blue pants today? It’s time to clean up. Would you like to put the blocks or the cars away first? It’s time to get ready for bed. Would you like to take a bath or a shower? Teaching children to make choices is so key to developing healthy independence.

The rescue trap
I regret now the number of times I rescued my children from what appeared a struggle, a challenge or a potential melt down. I often opted for what was easier in that moment rather than engaging the coaching curve. I would often save them from chores or personal or relational responsibility. My daughter was very shy and felt uncomfortable talking to people. I often rescued her when she was young rather than coaching her. I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable and I felt embarrassed. I wish I had met her in that moment and helped her through one step at a time rather than rescuing her from it and speaking for her every time.

The perfectionist trap
Allowing children to participate in helping at home, making their own sandwich, sweeping the floor, tidying their room, cutting the vegetables, stirring the batter, cracking the egg, pouring their own water can sound horrifying if you like to run a clean and efficient home. Looking back now, I wish I had been less worried about being efficient and more concerned about empowering my children and allowing them to be on a learning curve without judgment or frustration.

Scaffold their growth
We all need lots of practice to be proficient at anything. Think about all the steps on the ladder it takes to become proficient at any given task and then provide enough rungs on the ladder to help your kids experience success. Wrestling with some challenge without frustrating them is key. Give your children practice at helping, at exploring and creating their own ideas, of problem solving when they hit an issue. Let them practice apologizing and offering forgiveness and learning to manage relationships well. Give them needed support and then back off on the support when it is no longer needed. They will be so happy when they can say “I did it myself!”

Empowering children!
We want our kids to know they are capable; they are a needed part of the family and valuable. We want them to be confident and productive. They are in training camp with us right now and we speak value and belief in them and their abilities so they confidently say, “I can do this” and “I can do hard things!”and have beautiful things to give away to others too.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”- Jeremiah 29:11

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