As a parent, it can be hard to see your child learn to do things on their own. The mentality can often be “well, I’ll just do it for you so we can get it done.” From dressing them to cleaning their toys in a rush, it’s easy to get something done instead of letting a child learn how to do it themselves. According to psychologist Jeanne Williams, this can lead to a “learned helplessness.”
“Habitually doing things for your child that she’s capable of doing herself sends an inadvertent message that you don’t have confidence in her abilities,” Williams said.
Independence is vital in getting kids to feel confident and capable in the world as they grow up. Here are a few tips for parents to encourage that “do it yourself” spirit in their kids:
Know when you’re doing too much.
The first step in building independence starts with parents recognizing areas where they need to back off. Tell your child “I’ve been treating you like you can’t do this, but you’re a big kid now!” Encourage them by saying that their “big-kid jobs” will help more than just themselves, but will help the entire family.
Make time for practice.
Anyone who’s ever told a child to get dressed on their own knows that the process can take much longer than if you dressed them yourself. Rather than keeping to the same schedule and feeling too rushed, build in more time to your schedule to allow for independent moments. This could also help your child feel calmer and more cooperative when they’re not rushed.
Encourage independent play.
When parents hear the words “independent play,” it might feel a bit like an oxymoron. How are kids supposed to play by themselves? Isn’t that lonely? However, psychologists have noticed that children who are comfortable with independent play (provided it’s healthy and they’re still actively playing with other children as well) grow up to be more creative and imaginative thinkers. They’re also able to learn problem solving skills that they can’t develop when someone else — be it a playmate or a parent — is figuring out things for them.
Developing that sense of independence in children can be scary for parents, but it’s critical to seeing your child grow up into a creative, thriving young adult. At Lake Forrest Prep, we serve nursery age and preschool students with a focus on seeing them feel safe, capable, and cared for. If you’re interested in learning more about how we help our littlest students, give us a call at 407-331-5144 or schedule a time to tour.