Every parent wants their child to grow up to be a contented and successful individual who leads a meaningful life. While most of us parents readily acknowledge that helping the child to cultivate a sense of independence is vital to achieve this goal, the reality is that the parenting journey has its challenges. In our time-strapped society, it can be easier to help our children with tasks, or simply tell them what to do and when to do it, rather than involve them in the decision-making process.
However, there are some practical strategies you can use on a daily basis to foster healthy independence in your child over time:
#1 Provide choices
Have you ever watched a child play with a much-loved toy, or make a beeline for their favourite person in the room? A child can have preferences and choose one thing over another from as young as a few months old. You can begin to inculcate the habit of good decision-making by offering your child age-appropriate choices. As a general rule, the younger the child, the fewer the options offered so as not to confuse them. As your child shows maturity, you can widen the range of choices available. Creating frequent opportunities to exercise choice is important, as this gives your child much needed practice in wise decision-making.
#2 Affirm your child
A child needs self-confidence to blossom and become independent – and this stems from being encouraged and affirmed by the trusted adults in their lives. Research has shown that children who are regularly affirmed have a healthier sense of self-worth and experience greater success in overcoming challenging situations. Make it a personal goal to affirm your child daily. You may choose to praise their effort or positive attitude or even acknowledge a blossoming character trait such as diligence or compassion. However you choose to do it, you will give your child a much-needed emotional boost and make them more confident as they venture out as young adults.
#3 Teach everyday skills and provide opportunities to use them
In our society where working parents is a commonality and paid help is plentiful and affordable, it is not uncommon to have live-in helpers who take care of household matters. According to statistics published by the Ministry of Manpower, the number of foreign domestic workers have gradually risen over the past five years. Parents need to consider how to strike a balance between a well-run home and giving their children the opportunity to pick up basic skills through doing household chores. Being able to practise and master these everyday skills will help your child become more independent, and should begin from a young age. A toddler can be taught to put away their own toys, while older children can help with laundry, cleaning floors, setting the table at mealtimes and even acquire simple cooking skills.
#4 Practice independent learning
One of the best ways to equip your child for future success, is to help them to be lifelong learners. When it comes to academia, every parent dreads having to repeatedly nag at their children to complete their work. When this happens regularly enough, children can also become dependent on their parents to chase them – and forget about their work until the nagging starts! To break out of this unhealthy cycle, teach your child the skills they need to be independent learners. Start by asking your child to evaluate their current progress, and where they feel they need help. Have a frank discussion on the possible ways they can get help – while tuition can be the answer for some, more regular revision, or even sourcing for online tutorials may be the answer for others. Finally, get your child to set their own goals that are related to effort and mastery of a subject, rather than merely grade-focused. For example, one target may be ‘to speak Mandarin daily at home’ rather than ‘to score 80% in the oral examination’. Your children take ownership of their learning, and are more likely to be proactive about it as well – the school holidays are a good time to start.
Indeed, a child does not become independent and self-reliant overnight. This is a gradual process that unfolds over time, as you consistently invest time and effort in equipping them with the skills and knowledge they require to launch into the world as adults. Try these practical strategies on a regular basis, and add your own as you go along – you’ll have a confident independent child as a result.
By Judith Xavier
Focus on the Family Singapore Limited is a local charity with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status dedicated to helping families thrive by being a voice for Family. We partner individuals and organizations to nurture families at different life stages through transformational family life education, trusted resources, content placements and counseling.