Does this title make you think of many other things you can do for a child that are more important? You are right! It goes without saying that they need to be fed, loved, given shelter etc. However, after all that, the adults in the child’s life would do them a great service if they helped them become independent. It takes time and effort but the benefits will last a lifetime!

How?

What do I mean?

What does it look like?

Here are some ideas…

Let them carry their own things to school. Why? They will forever expect others to carry their things for them.

Teach them to do their coat up and give them opportunities to practise this skill. Why? They’ll spend their playtime putting it on while their friends have got their coat, hat and scarf on and have started playing. It can’t be nice to watch your friends do all this and be outside while you still struggle to do it. There aren’t enough adults in class to help all the children get ready for play so they have to wait. The answer isn’t more adults. The solution lies in empowering your child to do it themselves.

Allow them to make a mess. This will give them the opportunity to clear up. At school, the children are expected to clear up after themselves. This is another life skill which they will need more and more as they get older.

Independent eating! Let them start to feed themselves before they start school. We see so many children who cannot use cutlery, which is not bad. However, it is a shame when children are so used to being fed that they won’t even pick up the food with their hands. They sit and wait for someone to come and do it for them. At lunchtime there aren’t enough members of staff to do this. Should there be?

Encourage them to get the things that they need. You’ll be surprised to hear that some children sit waiting for a pencil because there aren’t enough on his/her table. Wouldn’t you think it was logical to get up and get one? This applies to other things that they need too. The adults may not realise that they need something unless the child asks or uses their initiative to resolve the issue themselves. It can very frustrating when you go to see a child’s work and find that they haven’t even started it because they didn’t have a pencil, rubber or that there wasn’t enough paper on their table.

Hygiene. Help them take care of themselves so they know how to clean up when they have finished in the toilet. They need to know how to wipe, where to dispose of the tissue and how to wash their hands properly. This is for their benefit and for the children and staff who are around them.

Ask them questions so that they can put their thoughts together like a jigsaw puzzle. Encourage them to make links between feelings and reactions. This will empower them to manage themselves.

Talk to them about things that have a ‘set’ pattern or those that happen at a certain time. Some children don’t realise that they need to go to the toilet or they don’t ask if they can go and they’ll feel ill or do what they need to do in their clothes. We’ll discover it when we detect a smell and investigate further. Of course, if this happens, the child will need to be washed and they’ll need to change their clothes. If some of it came out of their clothes, the furniture and floor will need to be cordoned off and cleaned.

Schools have a role to play in education but we are not the beginning and end of it. Children need to be supported by other adults at home before, after and during their school years. This does not mean tutoring. Education is a lot more than the academic.

Children grasp a lot more when they are younger. Thus it shouldn’t be that hard if you start early. Alternatively if you try and tell a 10 year old that they need to be responsible for their belongings when you’ve never expected them to before, they’ll find it very difficult to accept. Wouldn’t you?

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9 Comments

Suraj · March 25, 2009 at 5:17 pm

All the points you have mentioned in this article are VERY important. This is great food for thought for any parent or prospective parent.

In “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen R Covey writes a bit about delegation and teaching children about responsibility. I recommend reading the chapter on habit 3: “Put First Things First”

    Heena Modi · March 25, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks for this Suraj.
    I need to spread the content of this article.
    I’m not interested in my site or name being flagged up. Just the content. What’s I’m trying to say is I’m not trying to advertise my site or anything. I just really want to share this information in the hope of helping parents and children too.
    It is so important and so many people don’t think about this stuff.
    Any ideas?

Rupa · March 25, 2009 at 11:55 pm

My thoughts are that while you make some excellent points that parents would definitely benefit from putting in to practice, we must be careful on the amount of emphasis put on independence in relation to the long term development of a child’s life.

If there is too much reinforcement on independence in a child’s development, a parent could gradually become unintentionally deaf to a child’s call for help. A parent could get used to a child’s independence and could from time mistake their independence for self isolation in later years to come. (Teen years)

I guess I make this comment as I have witnessed it. The parent was praising the child’s maturity and independence when the child was around 10, but when she was coming to teenage years,- she became shy, stubborn, found it hard to make friends and didn’t really interact with her parents. Although this is normal teenage behaviour and they thought it was too, I thought this was reserved behaviour rather than the characteristics of an independent child. Parents still have to focus on guiding their children just as much as encouraging them to be independent.

Rupa

    Heena Modi · March 27, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Thanks for this Rupa.
    Yeah I guess there has to be a balance of both so that you’re there when a child needs you but you’re not so helpful that they are then hindered and cannot function or think for themselves!
    I’ve always thought that parenthood is one of the hardest jobs in the world yet there’s no training for it. You pick up whatever you’re lucky enough to have access to. Other than that if you search for a course and pay for it; picking up gems from others is about all there is.

Vicky Reeves · March 26, 2009 at 10:59 am

Couldn’t agree more to all of your points!!

    Heena Modi · March 27, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Thanks Vicky.
    I know you’re a new mummy so it’s good to know you’re looking ahead already 🙂

Ajay · July 18, 2009 at 1:31 am

I think the most important thing in a child’s life is balance! Without that they have no chance of becoming functioning adults.

    Heena Modi · July 18, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Balance is definitely a good thing! Yes! Often we emphasise one area or skill. It’s a shame because this can result in a child’s skill being overlooked.

Essential Back-to-School Articles for Parents of Young Children | Suraj Dinesh Shah · September 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm

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