How to Encourage Independence in Children and Teens
Do you feel you are controlling every aspect of your child’s life so they do not make any mistakes?
It is natural to not want to see your child fail. It is another matter to be managing, solving, fixing their problems inorder to ensure that does not happen. As a parent, we want to teach our children or adolescents right from wrong. But making your child feel they cannot do anything themselves prevents them from feeling like they can handle tough problems. Growth happens when we make mistakes and learn what we could have done differently. It builds a sense of agency and increases self esteem which are building blocks to becoming independent and confident adults someday.
While it is not healthy to let your child do whatever they want all the time, it is also unhealthy to never give them the freedom to learn from their mistakes. By allowing the space for them to make their own decisions, you can still do your job as a parent by being there when your child needs you.
Let Your Children Learn for Themselves
Telling your children what to do when they encounter a difficult situation does not leave room for them to figure it out on their own. For example, your daughter comes to you about a fight she is having with a friend. The friend has been texting rude comments about your daughter and sharing them with their friends. Your daughter feels hurt and angry. Resist the urge to put down the friend or offering advice on what to do. Instead ask her what she thinks is the best way to handle the situation. Role play some options together on what she can say to the friend and explore potential outcomes. Allow your daughter to come up with the solution she feels is best, even if you don’t agree. By allowing our teens to struggle through a problem and coming up with their own solutions gives them the opportunity to discover their own path. A rich road to self discovery and autonomy.
Leave Room for Creativity
As parents we have a tendency to feel like our way is the right way. The truth is that there are multiple solutions to problems. It is important to give your child the opportunities to figure out multiple ways of doing things.
For instance, you may teach your child how to tie their shoes using the “swoop, loop, and pull” method. Your child tries it, but is not successful. You could push your child too hard to do it your way because that is how you learned.
Encouraging your child to find their way to tie their shoes like the “bunny ears” method, allows space for your child to have his own ideas. It encourages independence.
Establish Privacy and Trust
As your child gets older, likely during the preteen and teen years, they will want their own space to feel a sense of autonomy. Just because a child wants their privacy does not mean they are up to trouble. If they are showing signs of harming themselves or others, that is when you need to step in.
Be a Good Listener
Listening to their concerns without offering advice or judgment helps your child feel understood and supported. Most children feel comforted knowing there is someone there who will just let them vent. Offer advice only if asked creates an opportunity for your child to express his feelings without the pressure of being told what to do. Sometimes they need space to talk about their feelings before they are ready to think about solutions.
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