Fostering the Seeds of Healthy Independence

Fostering the Seeds of Healthy Independence

There is nothing that makes me cringe more than when I hear a child say “I do it”, to which the parent replies “no let me do it for you”. Maybe this “fingernails on a chalkboard” response comes from living with five children—survival in my household requires some independence and initiative on everyone’s part! But, I get it. Watching your child struggle to accomplish the simplest of tasks can be excruciatingly painful, especially when you are pressed for time.

I can’t do it all and, quite frankly, I don’t want to. I try to keep this in mind when I sit and watch my twins attempt to button or use a zipper. I have no doubt I could do it faster (I’ve been using buttons and zippers for 40 plus years, you know); but the posturing, tears, and arguments that would ensue are just not worth it. Plus, I want to foster healthy independence now – this is especially important with multiples. How can a parent foster healthy independence without losing his or her mind, and avoid being chronically late for everything?

  • Start early – Remind yourself, “I need to head out the door 10 minutes early because Matthew is going to want to get his jacket on by himself.” Buffering your departure time will help. As soon as your child shows interest in completing a task, muster up the patience to allow him to give it a go on his own. Gently remind your children that if they need help, or if they would like to do it together with you, you are happy to help them. In my experience, after a few tries they will either ask for help or willingly accept assistance.
  • Praise – Praise your child for accomplishing the task and for trying to do it on his own. Let your children know there is nothing wrong with asking for help, and share a personal story about a time when you needed to ask for help to complete a task.
  • Avoid “re-do’s” – I have a difficult time with this one. In my little world everything has its place and there is place for everything. However, I realize at the end of the day if the girls attempt to clean their room and their clothes go in their drawers willy-nilly, it’s ok. They are learning, and at least the clothes are in the drawers rather than all over their room/house.  
  • Avoid the “my way is the only way” mentality – It’s fine to let your child know how you might do something, but if they find another way to get to the same exact result (even if it is more labor intensive), let them do it their way. They’ve figured it out!


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