How to Make Your Child More Independent
You want to encourage your child to be an independent person. Here are a few tips to help you accomplish that objective.
- Lead by example. Be independent yourself. Speak with your child about why independence is important to you and how you manifest independence in your own life. For example, you may say, “Have you noticed how all the houses in our neighborhood are taking down their American flags because they fear that their displaying the flag will make someone angry at them? I will not let fear guide my actions. I do not need to do something just because everyone else is doing it. I’ve decided to keep our flag out on our porch. I think it’s unlikely that flying our flag will offend people around here, and, if it does, then I’ll stand with my flag because it represents our patriotism, and I’m proud of that. I don’t fault others for being proud of their nationality, different though that may be from ours, so I hope that other people in our area will feel the same way. However, there may be some people who get upset over the choice I’ve made. Neighbors may be upset because they think I’m exposing our neighborhood to risk, or someone may take offense to our flying the flag. Any time you stand your ground, you run the risk of creating some conflict. I’ve weighed the risks, I’ve considered my values, and this is the course of action that I think is best. Do you understand the issues going on here and why they are important?”
- Ask your child questions to help him/her form his/her own opinions and decisions (as age-appropriate) rather than assuming that your child will absorb your opinions and decision preferences. For example, you may say, “I know you’re uncertain about whether to play volleyball this year at school. What are the reasons you’d like to play? (Wait for answer.) What are the reasons you don’t want to play? (Wait for answer.) How important are these issues to you? (Wait for answer.) Are there long-term consequences to consider here? (Wait for answer.) Would it help to right all this stuff down so you can see it in black and white? (Wait for answer.) I see that there are good reasons both to play volleyball and not to play volleyball this year. I know you will make the decision that’s right, whatever that is; I have confidence in you.”
- Encourage your child to enjoy time spent on his/her own. This does not mean time playing video games or surfing the Internet. This means time spent in quiet reflection, thinking about what s/he likes, wants, values, and believes.
- Encourage your child to engage in activities that encourage independence: singles tennis, debate/forensics, leadership roles in clubs, etc.
- Go on family outings that stimulate thought and discussion about likes, wants, values, and beliefs. For example, take a nature hike. Observe and discuss the beauty of nature, ecology, consumerism, etc. Does your child enjoy outdoor activities? Is s/he interested in ecology and environmental issues or is s/he more inclined toward consumerism? Another example: visit a museum. Does your child enjoy learning about history? Does s/he like hearing about his/her own history (i.e., when his/her ancestors immigrated to this continent, what difficulties they faced, how they lived, etc.)? Does your child understand and care about how things from the past influence the present and the future?
- Help your child develop a realistic sense of self and build up his/her self-esteem, as these are the foundations of healthy independence. Praise your child for what s/he does well; provide constructive feedback where there is room for improvement. For example, you may say, “You are very good in English. Your teacher says that you are way ahead of the rest of your class in English. Communication skills are so very important in life, in nearly everything you do both now and throughout your whole life. Your doing well in English is something that makes me so very happy for you!” You may also say, “I know shop class turned out not to be your strong suit, but we got your finger reattached, and we now know that working with your hands may not be one of your strongest skill sets at this time. It’s ok. Nobody’s perfect; nobody’s good at everything. The trick is finding what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing, and doing more of that while still doing enough of the other stuff to be well-rounded in your knowledge and experience. Do you feel strongly enough about working with your hands to put forth the effort to try to overcome the difficulty, or would you prefer to acknowledge this difficulty and move on to a different interest?”
By following the tips above, you can make your child more independent.