Raising self-confident and independent children is not an easy task. We need to know when to intervene and when to allow them space. The space that they need to acquire life skills, those that will stay with them after facing challenges and difficulties. In addition, this art of parenting requires a large dose of patience, tons of affection and a wisdom that can sense their needs.
Just a few weeks ago an interesting book on education was published entitled “Raising Independent, Self-Confident Kids“. In this book, two child psychiatrists, Wendy Moss and Donald Moses, reflect on a child-rearing model that many mothers and fathers are currently engaged in.
“Help me do it by myself”Share
We have reached a point where one of our priorities is to try and solve every single problem that our children encounter. Sometimes we even try to anticipate those problems, just to ensure they have an easier, calmer and more rewarding life. In this way, we surround them with an almost magical tranquility. And on top of that, it also gives us pleasure knowing that everything is in order.
All of this is undoubtedly understandable and, in most cases, even expected. However, some parents take this to an extreme. By smoothing our child’s way every day, and in every circumstance, we deprive the child of a very necessary skill. The fact that they need to be able to act for themselves. This ability is formally known as executive functioning.
Child psychiatrists Wendy Moss and Donald Moses define executive functioning as; a set of skills where one learns to be responsible for their world, to organize and manage their own things, to learn from their mistakes, and to develop a sense of self-efficacy. Let’s have a look at some strategies we can employ in order to raise self -confident and independent children.
1. Raising independent children – knowing when to intervene and when to guide from afar
Raising a child is like a dance. At one point you have to hug them and hold them, and then, soon after, let them go free. We have to understand that even when the dance partner has been set free to carry out their own steps and movements in absolute freedom, the other part is still there, observing and guiding from a distance.
Knowing when to act and when take a step back from our children is far from easy. It requires, first of all, the application of basic rules of coexistence. We are talking here about a framework where each member of the house has their own responsibilities. If they accept and carry out these responsibilities well, then they can gain certain rights in the household. In this way, these sort of family agreements help a child to grow up in a safe and happy environment. Therefore, they will know what is expected of them at all times.
To raise independent children we need to provide them with trust. Trust towards us as parents or educators, and trust towards themselves. In this way, the child will grow up in an environment where they are constantly nurtured and where affection and attention are always there. There will be no fears or barriers when they need to communicate their problems and needs. They will have greater confidence to be able to do almost anything for themselves.
3. Learning to make healthy choices
What do we mean by healthy choices? Healthy or fulfilling choices are those that allow a child to learn. They open the way for a child to accept responsibility for their actions. The child will understand that their actions have consequences. They will realise that their bad behavior will have an impact on themselves and their environment. We should also show children that asking for advice is good. However, they should also know that they have the freedom to accept that advice, or to follow their own instincts.
Another factor to take into account in order to raise independent children is that each child has their own personality, preferences and passions. As adults we cannot mediate in all their decisions and choices. We can, however, guide and advise.
4. Teach children to take responsibility for small tasks and also large ones
Getting a child to become responsible requires three things: time, patience and affection. In parenting, one of our worst “enemies” is wanting our children to acquire a large number of skills far too quickly. Another factor is that we are often quite incompetent in dealing with the daily challenges that come up when we least expect them to.
One way to start helping children to acquire these skills is to understand that children are capable of assuming responsibilities from a very early age. At the age of 3, for example, they can already learn how to put their toys away. They can even help us with small household tasks such as setting and clearing the table, watering the plants, taking care of pets, etc.
The application of rules, duties and responsibilities is vital. This will allow them to grow up knowing that they can do much more than they thought possible. They will learn that taking responsibility is synonymous with growing up. They will see that carrying these tasks out successfully reinforces their self-esteem.
5. Coping with frustration
One essential strategy for raising responsible and independent children is to help them develop patience and the ability to handle the small difficulties of everyday life. We must allow our children to experience, and learn to cope with, frustration. In this way they will become self-confident adolescents and adults. Therefore, never doubt the power of the word “no” when necessary. Saying “no” at the right time and in the right circumstances will create wonderful long-term benefits.
6. Develop self-control
Teach children to look at themselves from the inside. Help them to understand their emotions. This will enable them to manage day-to-day problems and challenges much better. To achieve this, there is nothing better than giving them an upbringing dependent on the resources of emotional intelligence.
7. Social skills, the importance of developing social competence in children
Developing correct social skills in children will help them build more satisfying relationships. In turn, they have a more positive self-image and develop a sound and enriching social competence. Something as basic as establishing a true empathy and assertiveness will help them to have more positive links in their environment. They’ll be able to deal with or avoid potential situations with bullying, and survive in a healthier way in their social and emotional journey.
In this “adventure” of raising independent children, that are sure of themselves and above all, happy, we cannot neglect one fundamental aspect: ourselves. It is the mother, the father, the grandparents and other family members that are all part of this child’s life. We must educate by example. We are the ones who can either nurture or harm. It is us who can give them wings to fly, or a cage of indecision, dependence and frustration. Let’s remember that words leave their mark, affections nurture and examples set out the way forward.