In This Together

The Importance of Building Independence in Children
We all want children to experience safe, happy and carefree childhoods. But life isn’t always easy, and by helping children develop some independence they will be better prepared to cope with all the ups and downs they each will experience. While it is natural for parents to want to protect their children and do things for them, to make sure that all their experiences are positive, you can’t always be there! It is important that children learn that they can be responsible and that they can do things for themselves.

‘But she’s so young, and it’s better/easier/faster if I do it!’, I hear you say. While sometimes it can be trying for parents, if children never have to do anything for themselves they will always expect others to do it for them. Parents may think they are helping their child, but this can encourage children to develop a learned helplessness – particularly if it goes on after a child is capable of doing things for themselves.

Learning to be independent begins at home. Even the youngest child, a pre-schooler, can be given some responsibilities – putting their toys away or setting the table, for example. Progressively, as a child gets older, they can be given tasks with greater responsibility – tidying their rooms or caring for a pet are just some ideas.

Involving children in family decision making discussions is also an important step in developing independence, teaching them that they do have a voice, that their ideas are listened to. This can be as simple as discussions about what to buy grandma for her birthday, or planning weekend family activities. Through conversation and the sharing of ideas, in the security of a family environment, children learn that their ideas and opinions are valued.

From a young age children can also begin to learn that they can work out some things for themselves. When your child comes home with a problem, don’t try and solve it for them straight away; have a conversation, talk about options, ask them what they think they could do. Of course give them advice, but include their ideas too. Through these discussions they will gradually develop strategies to problem solve on their own.

Children are so precious, and childhood is so short. We know and understand the great heartache parents feel when they know their child is struggling, even in the slightest way. But giving children some responsibilities, teaching them to think for themselves and to try to solve their own problems, will hold them in very good stead now and in the years ahead. And you will always be there to guide and support them along the way.

Elizabeth Cumming
Head of Primary School