We're big independence pushers in our family. After all, independent kids turn into independent adults, ultimately adults who can solve problems and turn thoughts into action.
Half the fun of promoting independence in your kids is YOU get to reap the rewards. The other half is the hard part. You have to let them do things, their way, however slowly or messily they have to do them while they are learning.
Here are a few ideas.
5 Ways to Promote Independence in Big Kids
- Give them chores: There are, no doubt, many age-appropriate chores you can delegate to your child, tween, or teen. My 6-year old sets the dinner table, brings in the garbage cans, and helps us clean up after his little brother. We're working on his unloading the dishwasher too. He puts the silverware away and piles everything that goes up high on the appropriate counter. Folding socks is still beyond his abilities, it seems.
- Let them make meals and snacks: When our son started kindergarten, we had him start making his lunch the night or morning before for a quarter. He still makes one messy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it's such a timesaver for us. Plus, now he knows how to put together a nice, fairly balanced lunch for himself — usually a sandwich, chocolate soy milk, yogurt stick, and fruit. Many big kids can make their own breakfast and snacks too.
- Allow them to make decisions: This is an important part of building the problem-solving side of their brains. If your child spills milk, let them clean it up — start to finish. Let them go get the towel, clean it up, and put the towel in the laundry. Or with bigger kids, give them cost limits and let them choose their own clothes or school supplies. Consider letting them decide how your day will go sometimes, choose their own punishment, and fix what they've broken. These are good lessons to learn, and someday they will learn to appreciate all the small things you do for them.
- Be open to new ideas: I can't tell you how many things my child learned at school that I never even considered he could do on his own: walk things to the office, cut with scissors, clean up his own messes! Don't just assume your child can't do something. Give them a chance to prove they can.
- Let them go: More than anything, be open to letting your child try new things and take on new responsibilities and then LET THEM. It might be messy and hard to watch (so don't). Learning and growing takes time and patience. Allow them plenty of both whenever and wherever you can. It will pay off in the long run.
How do you promote independence in your big kids, tweens, and teens?