Let me! {Encouraging Independence Part I}

Never help a child with a task at which he think he can succed! 
      ~Maria Montessori

Let Me!

From a very young age, before they even have a full grasp of the English language, you will hear kids say, "No, me do!  Me do!"  There is a built in drive for us to do things for ourselves.  You might look at this as a good thing or a not so good thing. 

Two Trains of Thought

1. This is a GOOD thing: Ultimately, we all must be able to take care of ourselves. This burgeoning sense of independence is a positive thing.  Being able to successfully complete a task (whether it is for self-care or something else), or even to successfully navigate some piece of the task, builds confidence and a child's belief in herself.

2. This is a NOT-SO-GOOD thing: Kids seem to have an inherent knack to want to do things for themselves.  This takes time.  Lots of time.  Sometimes more time than we seem to have available.  Kids often want to do these things for themselves when we have five minutes to be out the door and our way.  If we do it for them, we can be out the door in five seconds.  If we let them do it, we could be 15 minutes late.

Encouraging Independence and Saving Your Sanity

The aforementioned are not mutually exclusive.  You really can support your child's efforts at becoming independent, while at the same time maintaining your own sanity.  There are a few "tricks of the trade", which you can borrow from early childhood educators that will have your child grinning from ear to ear, saying, "I did it myself!" while you stay calm, cool and collected. 

Easy Steps

1. Developmental Perspective - Recognize that your child's attempt at doing things for herself is a positive sign of growth.  Respect her need to s~t~r~e~t~c~h herself.

2. Time - Leave plenty of time to allow your child to "do it herself".  It might take your child 2-3 or more times longer to do things for herself (getting dressed, zipping coats, tying shoes).  You've had lots more practice.  She is just learning.  Make sure to add in extra time when your youngster wants to do things for herself, so you can leave plenty of time for trial and error.  It can be frustrating for your child when her less than deft hands try to get the button "just so".  She's counting on you to be the calm voice of reason.  You can do that better when you aren't feeling stressed and rushed for time.

3.  Support - Your child needs your support and encouragement.  Cheer her along from the sidelines, without trying to rush in at the first sign of distress.  Believe in her.  Support her attempts, even if only slightly successful.

Say, "You're almost there!  You almost got it!  Keep trying!" 

When your child can't get things quite the way they need to be, say, "You worked hard on that!  You were so close!  We'll keep working at it! 

Other Resources that Help Kids Become Independent


naomi said…
I am with you on the time issue. I always allow plenty of time for my children to do things themselves. Good article as it sets parents clear about the good and less good of children wanting to be independent. In my my eyes it is all good!
All good from my perspective, too!

=) Wendy

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