The greatest gifts parents can give their children are a loving, supportive home environment; a well-rounded, challenging education; and opportunities to exercise independence and self-reliance. Love is a major factor in encouraging and teaching a child independence from a young age – and independence is the key to a well-balanced, confident, and happy young school child!
Independence is being able to:
- Manage oneself in a variety of situations
- Approach and tackle different tasks with determination, focus and perseverance
- Believe that you can be successful
- Be confident; it’s closely related to self-worth and understanding one’s innate ability
How to encourage your child to be confident and independent:
- Don’t do everything for him: Allow a child to perform appropriate tasks by him/herself. Although time-consuming – the feelings of pride and mastery build self-worth.
- Routine household tasks: Give children responsibility for daily, age-appropriate household tasks, like: clearing the table; feeding pets; putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket; loading the dishwasher, etc. Show appreciation!
- A child needs to experience both success and failure – it builds character: Parents should lead by example in dealing with such situations in family life. Your child will observe your example of, ‘Try, try, and try again’ from a young age. It is a vital example on how to master a skill; to persevere – and to realise that to make a mistake is okay as it can usually be fixed, despite one sometimes having to start all over again. They will realise that although many tasks or experiences may be challenging – most can be overcome with perseverance and determination.
- Reward System: To encourage and motivate your child to try harder, a reward system can be helpful. However, it is not recommended for everyday helpfulness like being loving towards family members, pets, etc. – when a compliment or hug will suffice.
- Do not over-protect your child! It can be as damaging to a child’s development as neglect! Doing so may cause a child to find the real world very challenging. Too much sympathy or attention indulges a child’s need to be pampered – and hampers him from becoming independent. Parents must accept that their child is growing up.
- Do not ‘baby’ a child who may appear to be ‘too small.’ Most are very capable – with only their potential to be developed. Allow them to pack and remember their own PE kit. Do not always run to the school with it for fear they will get into trouble. Sometimes this is a valuable lesson to learn for next time.
- Instant gratification: Children should learn from a young age that one cannot immediately have everything one wants! Things that are worked for and waited for are more valued. Practise with them at home that, ‘Patience is a virtue!’
- Initiative and creative thinking: Both are developed in children if we encourage and motivate them to be independent. This stimulates imaginative problem-solving and lateral thinking – all aspects of life-long, intellectual development.
Barbara Daniel, Principal
St Martin’s Pre-Primary School