How To Raise Kids Who Want To Be Independent

kids on beach

Most parents want to raise responsible kids who can look after themselves. But how do you actually do that in today’s society? 

We live in a world of restrictions and expectations for parents. Safety, we’re told, is our highest value and the thing that matters most. So the notion of giving kids freedom and independence seems off the cards. Giving them that kind of leeway would surely go against the zeitgeist?

girl reading

Well, it turns out that kids with an independent streak tend to thrive. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that they learn valuable lessons about what they can achieve by themselves. They discover that they are productive agents in the world and can affect their environments – something that helps when people get old. And secondly, they have to learn to self-regulate. If there’s nobody there telling them how they should behave, it’s something they need to learn themselves. 

So how can today’s parents give their kids more independence? What’s the secret? Check out the following tips and ideas. 

Allow Mistakes To Happen

As adults, we sometimes forget that the world is an unrelentingly complicated place. As we get older, we learn various skills and rules that allow us to navigate it. But we’re mostly going off memory and heuristics. Hardly any of us have a fundamental understanding of how things work. We just know how to keep ourselves safe from experience. 

Kids are new to the world, so they don’t have any such luxury. Many things are brand new for them every day, and they have to work them out. In many ways, they’re like miniature scientists, trying to master their environment

Mistakes are inevitable, so it’s vital parents accept them. When children feel like they have permission to fail, they’re much more likely to learn the skills they need to thrive. If you don’t allow some leeway, they’ll ultimately fail to mature as people. They need room to breathe. 

Don’t Insist On Perfection

Some parents believe that insisting on perfection is the way to give kids the best chance of thriving. But that’s not how human psychology works. If you pressure somebody to perform with fear of adverse consequences, then that creates an entirely new dynamic. From their perspective, the challenge becomes avoiding punishment, not doing a great job. And so that stifles their creativity and willingness to fail. Ultimately, it damages the personality, creates anxiety and leads to worse outcomes.

Perfectionism is actually an enemy. The goal should be to aim high, not perfect. There’s always a risk that things won’t work out. 

How To Raise Kids Who Want To Be Independent 1

Give Them Responsibility

Giving children responsibility from an early age is essential if you want them to mature as people. But, as a parent, how do you do this? 

If they’re old enough, you can start them on driving lessons. Being responsible for a motor vehicle is just about as close a thing as we have in the modern world for a rite of passage. For the first time in many people’s lives, they’re responsible for something and have to make crucial decisions and judgements. 

If your kids are younger, you can give them other types of responsibility. For instance, you can put them in charge of the Christmas decorations or get them to look after a younger sibling. Whatever it is, make sure that they know that they’re in charge. The more they can practice responsibility, the better they will get at it. 

Write Down Things Your Child Can Do By Themselves

Sometimes as parents, we can lose track of what our kids can actually do by themselves. We spend so much of our lives providing basic services, we can forget that they are independent beings. And that can stifle their desire to become more independent. 

Here’s an idea: try writing down a list of things that your child can do by themselves, without any outside intervention or help. Start with simple things like buttoning their shirts or cleaning their teeth, and then move onto more sophisticated tasks, like pressing and folding their clothes. If you can get them into these habits while they are young, you can set them up for life. The more tasks they can do by themselves, the more conscientious they’ll become. 

Promote Their Needs

Lastly, parents should focus on promoting, but not always facilitating, their child’s needs. For instance, if a child wants to buy something, the parent should encourage that desire as a motivation. But they should also point out that having nice things requires hard work. 

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