It’s happened. It’s finally happened. Your child has reached an age where they no longer need you to hold their hand for everything, and they’re able to stand on their own two feet and get on with things. And whilst this can be an awkward realisation - you can feel like your child no longer ‘needs’ you so much in their life - it can also be a cause for celebration!
After all, your little one doesn’t need you to manage all the little tasks for them anymore, which leaves a bit more time for you and your other responsibilities. This will definitely come in handy when you’re rushing to get them along to preschool and also be on time for work afterwards!
However, even when your child reaches an age where independence comes along quite naturally, they can still rely on and look to you to do everything for them. And sometimes, that can hold them back, or make you feel like your son or daughter is a milestone behind their peers.
And in situations like these, it’s a good idea to encourage them to find their independence, which you can do with the help of the ideas below.
Have the ‘responsibility talk’
Children love knowing that their parents trust them, and they relish the feeling of being ‘grown up’, even if they’re only 4 or 5 and have a lot more growing to do! And because of this, it’s a good idea to have a talk about responsibility with them.
This can be done by asking them what they feel like they’re capable of doing. Let them walk you through how they can pick their own clothes in the morning, and see how much they’ve learned about food from helping you out in the kitchen. Encourage them to talk about the things they like doing for themselves, to ensure that responsibility never becomes a boring chore in their mind.
Be sure to put a talk like this in terms that they understand; responsibility can be a hard concept to grasp for both teens and young adults, so make sure to be gentle with your little one!
Delegate simple tasks to them
Of course, we all know that a 4 or 5-year-old cannot look after themselves completely, but they can manage little things, such as putting their own shoes on, or brushing their own hair. As long as the task is simple, and doesn’t take longer than 5 minutes to do, you can entrust the management to your little one.
When they come downstairs and show you how they’ve done, you can congratulate them on just how clever and capable they are, even if their hair is a bit of a mess! It helps them to get used to this new routine and helps them to feel like they’re doing a good job with this small bit of control they have over their life.
However, if you don’t feel like letting your child take a bit of charge over their entire morning routine, you don’t have to! But try to give them one thing to do. For example, one of the most simple tasks you can put your child in charge of is brushing their own teeth. Kids have to brush their teeth twice a day anyway, so why not start trusting them with managing this small task on their own? In fact, we have a guide on helping kids to manage teeth brushing and encouraging them to keep their gnashers clean right here on the Ducklings blog!
Tell them how well they’re doing!
Encouragement can come in many forms, but the simplest, most effective way to let your child know they’re doing well, and that you’re proud of them, is to simply tell them so. Be specific about what you liked about what they did, so your child can easily understand this kind of praise.
As we touched on above, letting your 4-year old know they’ve done something really incredible by strapping the velcro on their shoes or putting a hairband on their head can help them to take on more independence. And independence can absolutely be encouraged, and it’s actually the best way to learn it!
For example, many children love having the freedom to decide their own outfits in the morning, as it’s a very good way to express themselves at a young age. And not only that, but it proves that they have a home environment that is both safe and lots of fun, even if responsibility can get boring after a while!
All in all, independence encouragement sends your child a message, even subconsciously, that whilst they can’t quite do what they like, they are a part of the decision making in the family.