Raising Independent Children
I can’t tell you how many times parents would come into our classroom and comment on the controlled chaos in the room. They would say to Jackie and me, “I don’t know how you do it. You have 16 children in here, they aren’t arguing, and they are all busy. What is your secret?”
We’d say, “There is no secret, we are constantly trying to create a classroom to encourage the children to use their independence and self-reliance skills which would help them now and prepare them for Kindergarten.”
Recently, I found an article that offers seven tips to help you raise independent children, these are the same ideas we incorporate in the classroom. (Read the story here)
I will point out how we use these guidelines with the children. Hopefully you’ll want to try them at home.
- Keep to schedules and routines.
By having a set schedule or routine, the children know what to expect and can start to monitor their own time. They will begin to make their choices of what they want to do.
Even though they’ve yet to begin to tell time, they seem to have an internal clock and know if they will have enough time to finish their project or activity. Sometimes they will even ask in advance if they can save what they were working on to finish it later.
Having a routine is comforting for children because they know what to expect. If you ask your child, most of them can tell you their school’s schedule. For instance, they may say something like this, “First we have free play, then we have circle time, snack, outside time, circle time, art project, lunch. . .etc.
- As they get older, let them do particular activities alone.
We encourage the children to work alone on a task or on an activity of their choice. Doing this, encourages children to make choices on their own, which builds their attention span and helps them to be more self-reliant. Lastly, working alone, encourages your child to problem solve along the way.
- Encourage chores in the house.
Even in the classroom, the children are taught to do activities that benefit the whole classroom. If they were using the dress-up clothes, they are encouraged to hang them back up, so the next child can use them.
While working in a group activity, such as block building, the children are expected to participate in the task of cleaning up. By sharing in these everyday jobs, this teaches the children to be responsible for the things they were using.
- Employ the “if you want it, get it” rule.
When children are being creative in the classroom, they often have in their mind’s eye how they want the outcome to be. Therefore, they will have an idea of what they need or how they can make it better.
While they are playing and creating, we let the children get and use anything they need to accomplish their task. Sometimes, they will even ask if they can go borrow an item from another classroom.
This kind of thinking expands their resourcefulness, inspires problem-solving and lets the children know they can do things for themselves.
- Praise them for their accomplishments.
Praise goes a long way in a young child’s life. When they are praised for all the little accomplishments they make, they build an “I can do it” attitude. Then, they will want to do more and more things on their own.
- Let them experiment and learn.
In the classroom, we always encourage and cheer the children to accomplish a task on their own, rather than rescuing them and doing it for them; since that teaches them nothing.
At the beginning of the school year, the children discover all the dress-up clothes they have at their disposal for pretend play. Often, they would ask us to dress them, instead of doing it for them, we guide them as they do it for themselves.
Tasks such as getting dressed for outside play, putting on their own shoes, opening their own lunch items like yogurt, applesauce and potato chips are all skill builders. If a child is having difficulty opening a bag of potato chips, their frustration can be lessened simply by asking, “do you think scissors would help?”
Having the children do things for themselves may take time and patience, but the time spent is worth it in the end.
- Remind them they have choices.
The article said it best, “Rather than relying on you, give your kids chances to make their own decisions, even if it starts out as something small, like choosing what to put in their lunchbox.”
In our class, the children were encouraged to make several choices throughout their day, such as: what activities they want to do, who they wanted to play with, what did they want to build, did they want to participate in an art project or even who they wanted to sit next to in circle or at snack. Making choices on their own gives them power.
The guidelines mentioned in the article are the same that are incorporate within our class. These guidelines are used daily to encourage children to grow and become more self-reliant, before heading off to Kindergarten.
We hope you incorporate these tips in your home to build stronger and more independent children.